We go where people gather, attending county fairs and community festivals, visiting community centers and libraries, and appearing at churches, schools and other facilities. We reach thousands each year through our talks, training sessions and leave-behind brochures.
We use the media to educate the community and to highlight our services. Our staff is often featured in news articles and programming; in addition to local media, CVLAS attorneys have been featured or quoted in The New York Times, on local radio programs, and on the steps of and the John Marshall Courthouse in Richmond, Virginia.
CVLAS reaches out to migrants through its Virginia Farmworkers Program, visiting camps and participating in church-organized fiestas when workers are off duty. We reach over 4,000 migrants annually through this program.
The Central Virginia Client Council, an organization sponsored by legal aid and made up of folks who could be eligible clients, meets regularly and engages in outreach to the client community. Our domestic violence unit provides information to and seeks referrals from other agencies providing services to victims of this common form of abuse.
A disabled CVLAS client was facing foreclosure on her home over a $8,600 bill from a debt collection agency retained by her homeowners’ association. The client had spent months trying to work out a payment arrangement to no avail. Neither the debt collection agency nor the homeowners’ association would accept any type of agreement. In response, the CVLAS attorney prepared a Circuit Court lawsuit to file and sent a demand letter to the foreclosing trustees. The letter noted that there were multiple problems with their plan to foreclose on her home. In view of these multiple problems, the foreclosure sale was canceled, her home was saved, and the fees were reduced from $8,790 to $4,730. Finally, they worked out an agreement so the client could pay off the remaining debt over the next 12 months.
A mother contacted CVLAS to obtain protection from her violent husband and custody of her five children. She immigrated with her family from Afghanistan to central Virginia about 4 years ago. She had another 7 children by her first husband, who was killed by the Taliban. Her current husband had long been abusive to the children, including whipping two of the girls with an Apple computer charger cord. Further complicating this matter was the fact that client did not speak English and translators were in short supply. A CVLAS lawyer obtained a preliminary protective order on behalf of the mother and filed for a permanent protective order in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JDR). The husband was not deterred by the preliminary order and came back to the home. Our client called the police and had him arrested for trespassing. In the JDR Court the initial Petition for a protective order was denied by the Judge due in part to some of her story being lost in translation. On appeal to the Circuit Court, the Protective Order was again denied by the Court. At the same time a guardian ad litum, appointed to protect the interests of the children recommended that the husband have supervised visitation. The CVLAS lawyer asked for a private hearing with the judge and the children, who all spoke English. Based on their testimony, the judge ruled that she would not order visitation against the wishes of the children, that they raised credible allegations of abuse, and that dad’s story just wasn’t credible at all. The father eventually pled guilty to trespass as opposed to being tried for a violation of the Preliminary Protective Order. The plea agreement in the trespass case provided for a 2-year no contact with Mom or the residence, effectively providing the mother the protections she sought.
A rural county client contacted CVLAS having lived in her federally subsidized (voucher) apartment for 3 months. She had paid her portion of the rent of $356/month, but the local Public Housing Authority (PHA) had not paid their portion of the rent of $619/month. The problem was that the apartment complex claimed they had submitted the voucher paperwork months earlier, but the PHA denied ever receiving it. Rather than try to solve the problem, the apartment complex sent the client a nonpayment of rent notice for $1,857. In response, the CVLAS attorney sent demand letters to both the apartment complex and the PHA. The apartment complex was reminded that the tenant is not responsible for paying the portion of rent to owner covered by the housing assistance payment under the contract between the owner and the PHA. The demand letter to the PHA requested an informal hearing to contest the PHA’s nonpayment of their share of the rent for three months. Rather than have a full hearing over a mistake that clearly was PHA’s error, the PHA conceded. Three weeks later they paid the apartment complex everything owed, preserving the client’s home.
A 67-year-old man living in a rural county reached out to CVLAS as he and his wife had been sued for $70,365.10 in medical debt in relation to emergency medical care he received when he was uninsured and rushed to the nearest hospital. When he arrived at the hospital, his wife was forced to sign documents saying she and her husband would be responsible for all treatment costs before her husband could be treated. Unfortunately, the hospital he was brought to by the emergency crew was a for profit hospital that had a limited charity care program and the hospital told him he did not qualify for despite his low income. This client was destressed by the lawsuit and worried he would have to file bankruptcy. A CVLAS attorney identified a defect in the hospital’s lawsuit and filed a motion to dismiss. The court granted the motion, and the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, which means the client and his wife avoided a judgment of $70,365.10 and didn’t need to file for bankruptcy.
A grandmother retired from work and applied for SNAP (Food stamps) benefits to help feed her three grandchildren who she is raising. Her application was denied due to an error. She went through the SNAP appeal process prior to contacting legal aid, and the hearing officer found that she was to be issued SNAP benefits within 10 days. However, the local social services agency (DSS) did not fully comply with the order and issued her only a small one-time payment. The grandmother submitted SNAP renewal paperwork and was again denied. The attorney investigated and learned that another party was fraudulently receiving SNAP under the children’s names. The attorney helped the client appeal and submitted the court order showing that she had full legal and physical custody of the grandchildren. The attorney represented the family in a Fair Hearing and received a fully favorable outcome. The family was awarded an arrearage of $3,036 in benefits. Additionally, the attorney argued that the SNAP amount was improperly calculated, and it was increased from $310 per month to $587 per month moving forward, allowing her to provide for the children in her care.
The staff members of Central Virginia Legal Aid Society are often featured in media stories
highlighting our work and the legal challenges facing our clients. These are a selection of stories featuring CVLAS.