2011-11-08 / Front Page

Cunot Presentation Centers On Legal Aid For Low Income And Citizens Over The Age Of Sixty

Indiana Legal Services Offers Help On Cases Not Criminally Related
by Michael Stanley Staff Writer

Indiana Legal Services, Inc. Managing Attorney Jamie Andree spoke to local residents on the topic of legal assistance for low income citizens during a visit to the Cunot Community Center on Thursday. (Staff Photo) Indiana Legal Services, Inc. Managing Attorney Jamie Andree spoke to local residents on the topic of legal assistance for low income citizens during a visit to the Cunot Community Center on Thursday. (Staff Photo) Facing collection, home foreclosure, eviction or an appeals case? The Indiana Legal Services, Inc. office in Bloomington may be able to lend some aid in the legal realm for those ages 60 and older, as well as for those with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“We provide free legal help to people who have all kinds of legal problems. We don’t handle any kind of criminal law problems; if someone can’t afford a lawyer and has been charged with a crime, they need to ask the court for a public defender,” ILS, Inc. Managing Attorney Jamie Andree told a group of about a dozen senior citizens gathered inside the Cunot Community Center on Thursday afternoon. “We repre- sent people who are facing collection, who have debt problems. For example, I’m currently representing a gentleman who got a loan 35 years ago to attend truck driving school. It wasn’t a very big loan, but he’s still paying back this loan, he’s working and his wages are being garnished. He can’t get any information when he calls on how much he owes or where the money goes, so it’s kind of a problem. He’s actually paid back more than he borrowed in the first place.”

Andree mentioned representing clients who have been sued for debts they have never heard of.

“They have no idea what it is they are being sued for. Maybe at one time they had a credit card debt and it’s been sold around a bunch of times, so we help with that,” she said. “We do see a lot of people in the office who have Social Security as their primary source of income. Sometimes, even though no one seems to know you can’t collect from Social Security, sometimes we in fact see people who come in and their Social Security is being garnished or levied. That’s something we can help with. We actually have a special project, the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, set-up to deal with people who have issues with the IRS.”

Andree explained that the primary goal of her organization is to help people hold onto what they have.

“To keep them in their homes if they are facing eviction or foreclosure, those are things we can deal with,” she said. “We have a lot of clients who don’t own their homes, tenants who are facing evictions, so we try to help people with those types of problems. Out here in an area like Owen County where there is a lot of rural property, a lot of people are buying places on contract. It’s a deal between a seller and a buyer, no lawyer was ever involved and it has to last about 15 years before it’s done. People have a really hard time getting a lot for that long of a time where one is paying the other. So we do deal with a lot of land contract disputes. There are times where someone will be paying on a contract and they come to find out that the home or mobile home they are buying isn’t actually on the piece of land the seller is selling to them, it’s actually on the neighbor’s piece of land.”

Andree noted that while her office doesn’t handle many bankruptcy cases, they do assist individuals in filing for bankruptcy.

“Sometimes people have a judgement against them and everything they have is protected by the law from collection, but the creditor is still harassing them,” she added. “We help people deal with those problems, as well as with government benefits. Some people lose benefits simply because paperwork gets lost.”

Legal aid is also provided for family law issues, Andree explained..

“We do handle some divorce cases, custody disputes and child support. We have a couple of lawyers in the office who do nothing but family law cases,” she said. “We help clients who have lost their driver’s license and need a license to get to work.”

The services provided through the Indiana Legal Services office are often free for low income residents of surrounding communities.

“Not always, but almost always, if you qualify as our client you can almost always get the filing fees waived,” Andree said. “There is an Indiana law that says if you’re a low income person and one of our clients, you don’t have to pay filing fees. But there are sometimes other costs associated with representing people that we do ask people to pay for.”

The ILS, Inc. has a sliding scale of financial coverage for clients, based on income.

“If someone is at 125 percent of the federal poverty level, which is right around $13,000 for one person, you are financially eligible,” Andree said. “We have slightly better rules for those over age 60. If you’re between 125 percent and 200 percent, or $14,000 and $21,000, we will represent you, but will ask about expenses. If you are over 200 percent, then you are not eligible – with a few exceptions. We can be more flexible with people over the age of 60.”

The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and asks that prospective clients contact them by phone during “intake” hours, from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Monday, 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Thursday. Callers will be screened for financial eligibility and other eligibility requirements and interviewed about their legal problems.

The office is located on the second floor of College Square at 214 South College Avenue in Bloomington and can be reached by phone at 812-339-7668, or toll-free at 1-800-822-4774. The Bloomington location serves clients in Owen, Monroe, Putnam, Greene, Lawrence, Orange, Vigo, Parke, Sullivan, Morgan, Jackson, Brown and Bartholomew counties.

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