Chelan-Douglas Volunteer Attorney Services Helps Those Too Poor To Afford Legal High-Quality Aid
Legal help can be hard to come by when you’re poor. Unfair as it is, most of the time you get the justice for which you can pay. For those who cannot afford legal services here locally, there’s Chelan-Douglas Volunteer Attorney Services, or VAS for short.
“Just because you don’t have the money doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve the opportunity to put forth the truth and get justice,” said Eloise Barshes, VAS executive director.
Last year, a core group of local attorneys donated 670 hours of their time to work pro bono for VAS clients. Clients must prove their income level before receiving free legal help. Most of the folks seeking VAS’ aid are women seeking to get out of a bad domestic situation, but not always. Tenant rights are also a large focus for the group. VAS attorneys have helped renters avoid or delay eviction, keeping people off the streets.
“When an attorney can stand with them in those cases, and review their case and find ways to give them a little bit more time to avoid being directly on the streets, then that’s a win,” Barshes said.
They also host regular clinics at the Wenatchee Valley Senior Activity Center so seniors without wills can get their legal and financial affairs in order free of charge.
Maria Gutierrez works for the Wenatchee School District and is the sole guardian of her grandson, since he was two years old. When she broke up with her longtime boyfriend and moved out of her home, they were effectively homeless.
Being poor, she had few options. So she went to VAS, where local attorney Kristen Ferrara met with and gave her legal advice. Within nine months, she and her grandson were back in their home.
“If it wasn’t for her, my lawyer, I would’ve never gotten my home back,” Gutierrez said.
Sometimes, VAS attorneys even help keep families together. Tom Janisch, another local volunteer attorney, recalled a case that was especially meaningful to him. It was a case in which he helped a woman avoid losing all visitation or custody rights to her child.
“For various reasons that weren’t her fault, she didn’t have the ability to present her case,” he said. “And we had an almost two-day trial, and the result was an implementation of a plan that reunited her with her child.”
There are many more stories like these once you take a closer look at Chelan-Douglas Volunteer Attorney Services.