St. Petersburg, FL – This fall, Gulfcoast Legal Services opened a new office at the Lealman Community Campus, making free, civil legal aid more easily accessible to vulnerable, low-income households in Lealman and the surrounding communities. The move was funded by the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas, a long-time supporter of the organization.
According to the 2018 ALICE report published by United Way, of the 8000+ households in Lealman, 65% are living at the poverty level or are asset-limited income-constrained employed individuals, meaning they are working, but do not earn enough to afford their basic necessities. Lealman has the second largest number of these individuals in Pinellas County. These individuals are often at risk for exploitation from landlords, employers, significant others, etc., and are unlikely to seek legal assistance because of the associated cost. In addition, Lealman has been identified by the Juvenile Welfare Board as a high-risk zone in need of special attention in the areas of preventing child abuse and neglect, improving school readiness and school success, and strengthening community.
GLS meets the needs of ALICE families and those experiencing poverty by providing services free of cost to all those who are eligible. Their clients are single mothers experiencing housing insecurity, immigrant families, victims of human trafficking, grandparents acting as their grandchildren’s caregivers, seniors who have been victims of fraud and scams, and many others. The GLS office in Lealman places attorneys and legal professionals within the immediate community so potential clients do not have to navigate hurdles like transportation to receive assistance. In addition, having staff in Lealman full-time will help them weave into the fabric of the community.
Staff at the Lealman office speak Spanish and have considerable experience working on immigration, human trafficking, domestic violence, and family issues such as divorce, guardianship, and custody matters, with the JWB-identified goal of preventing child abuse and neglect. In addition to the three permanent staff on location, a GLS financial stability and housing attorney will be available at the office on a rotating basis.
“GLS is excited for this opportunity to better serve and to become a part of the Lealman community. We are here to help those in need and hope our full-time presence in the area will make accessing equal justice easier for community members.”
– Immigration Supervising Attorney, Jacquelyn Bradford.