Login | January 17, 2019

New grant helps Legal Aid take “community lawyering” approach

Legal News Reporter

Published: June 2, 2017

Community Legal Aid Executive Director Steven McGarrity has big plans for a new Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation neighborhood stabilization grant.

The grant, which is for up to $1.3 million over four years, will support community redevelopment legal assistance.

“I’m beyond thrilled,” McGarrity said. “The money is going to allow us to put in place a team of attorneys who focus specifically on community redevelopment efforts, working within neighborhoods and with collaborative partners to make real and lasting change.”

OLAF board members voted in March to approve the grant, with $350,000 to be released this spring.

“Future funding will depend on the success of the first year,” said McGarrity. “Most of the money will go to Youngstown to improve the educational system there. We will also be doing some work in Akron, using leverage of banks to invest in low-income communities.”

McGarrity said the grant will allow Legal Aid to do more “community lawyering” work that will give people access to other support including education, job training and financial help, rather than simply addressing one legal problem.

“This will be part of my effort to change our business model of sitting in our offices and waiting for the phone to ring,” he added.

McGarrity said the grant money is the result of the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Bank of America after the financial crisis.

“One aspect of the settlement was that the bank had to do foreclosure prevention and neighborhood stabilization in almost every state,” he said.

OLAF also approved proposals from five other legal aids across Ohio.

“Our goal is to leverage this funding and maximize its impact by funding sustainable collaborations that will improve Ohio communities,” said Angela Lloyd, OLAF’s executive director.

Legal Aid’s proposal includes the following key initiatives:

• A partnership with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Coalition, which “works to transform neighborhoods into meaningful places where people invest time, money and energy,” according to the organization’s website.

• A partnership with the Taft Promise Neighborhood in Youngstown, which works within a specific neighborhood to address education, health and wellness, jobs and economy, and infrastructure and safety needs.

• Ongoing work with the Summit County Community Reinvestment Coalition, which works to address housing issues for low-income neighborhoods in the greater Akron area.

• A partnership with Summit County United Way and other community groups to address the needs of low-income people and neighborhoods.

Community Legal Aid serves low-income clients in Columbiana, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Trumbull and Wayne counties.