Unable to address every legal need, ENLS has rules as to which type of cases it will accept. These case acceptance rules are also known as program priorities.
The priorities focus ENLS' limited resources on the most critical legal needs of the low-income community. Situations affecting the client's survival are considered the most important. Such priorities include assisting clients keep a roof over their heads, obtain public assistance or other services or benefits necessary for survival.
Defending against eviction is ENLS' top priority and each year, we assist over 1,000 households facing eviction. However, with over 30,000 eviction actions filed in Essex County each year, most tenants go without a lawyer. ENLS also works to prevent the loss of affordable housing units. Every affordable housing unit lost, increases homelessness in our county. ENLS also provides legal assistance to people whose former landlord has wrongly refused to return their security deposit.
PUBLIC ASSISTANCE BENEFITS
For the poorest of the poor, public assistance benefits can represent survival.
ENLS provides legal assistance to individuals and families who are eligible for benefits but are having difficulty in obtaining or keeping such benefits.
These benefits may include cash assistance, emergency shelter, food stamps and access to medical services including health care insurance coverage through Medicaid or Medicare.
ENLS also provides legal advice and in some cases, representation at fair hearings to people who have been improperly denied benefits. This includes applicants for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Relationship disputes can be both emotionally painful and complicated. There are not enough free legal assistance resources at ENLS or anywhere else to fully meet the need. For this reason, legal assistance is often limited to providing legal advice only. In child abuse and neglect, custody, paternity, name change, annulment, and adoption cases, ENLS only provides legal advice.
In domestic violence, where assisting victims is a top priority, ENLS offers victims of domestic violence a wide range of legal assistance. This can include not only help in obtaining restraining orders but also issues involving children, shelter, and support. Through the Essex County Family Justice Center, (973) 230-7229, victims of domestic violence can also access counseling, safety planning, emergency shelter, and law enforcement.
ENLS provides legal assistance to those seeking relief from unmanageable debt and the loss of vital services and property. ENLS represents debtors in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. ENLS provides legal assistance in gas and electric shut off and billing disputes. ENLS also provides advice in Consumer Fraud situations.
EXPUNGEMENT OF CRIMINAL RECORDS
Even a very old record of an arrest or conviction can keep you from a job, an apartment or government benefits. ENLS provides assistance to those who seek to clear their records.
Persons age 60 and older are served by all of ENLS' law units. This recognizes that most legal issues facing seniors are no different from those facing others, but ENLS also specializes in assisting seniors with age related issues including pension and Social Security. Work is also done on reverse mortgages, senior housing and nursing home issues. The Family Law unit also prepares Powers of Attorney, wills and living wills. Where necessary, home visits are made.
ENLS works closely, with the Essex County Division of Senior Services and other agencies that serve the elderly.