Seeing increased need, Springfield legal aid group solicits funds

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SPRINGFIELD — Last year, Community Legal Aid’s (CLA) fundraising campaign Access to Justice raised over $33,000 to help underserved community members across central and Western Massachusetts obtain help with their matters in the civil courts. This year, the group is trying to top that amount.

“There has been an increased demand for our services in the Springfield office,” said Corrine Ryan, a managing attorney at Community Legal Aid, which helps low-income residents with employment and family law issues, for instance.

Between 2020 and 2023, the number of cases CLA handled in Hampden County jumped from 2,298 to 2,838, a 23.5% increase, according to a press release from CLA.

The legal aid organization saw the biggest jump in need surrounding its re-entry unit, which helps people re-entering society from state prison. So far, the unit has handled 103 cases in 2023, which is more than twice the number of cases handled in 2022.

CLA’s housing and homelessness unit handled its second-highest increase in cases, which saw a 29% increase from 2022 to 2023.

Because of the increase in demand for free legal services, the service providers hope that the community will pour back financial support into CLA’s fund.

“Increased support means that we can accept more cases, helping more of our low-income and elderly neighbors,” the press release said.

A majority of CLA’s clients do not earn enough money to provide for a family of four, let alone for legal services, which is why the group offers pro bono aid.

The campaign helps those struggling with civil legal issues — for example, people who are being evicted, at risk of losing custody of their children, or seeking protection from violence.

“By helping people with civil legal problems, the Hampden County Access to Justice Campaign embodies the principle that ‘justice for all’ applies to everyone, not just those who can afford it,” the press release said.

This campaign is running from now until the early part of 2024.

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