Legal Aid receives new funding for community redevelopment

OLAF-funded projects to take place in Youngstown, Akron

Community Legal Aid has received a neighborhood stabilization grant from the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF). This new funding will support community redevelopment legal assistance.

The grant is for up to $1.3 million over the course of four years, with $350,000 to be released this spring. Subsequent funding releases will be contingent upon progress updates provided to OLAF.

“I’m beyond thrilled,” shared Steven McGarrity, Executive Director for Legal Aid. “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.”

Legal Aid’s proposal listed several key initiatives the organization will be using the OLAF funding to pursue, with projects listed in both Akron and Youngstown:

  • 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, of which Legal Aid is a founding member and 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 organizations on projects and programs that aim to address the needs of low-income individuals and neighborhoods.

“For much of this work, we were already in conversations with these groups about ways Legal Aid could better serve our clients and be more strategic as a community resource,” McGarrity explained. “The funding from OLAF allowed us to formalize plans so that we could dedicate staff members to focus solely on this work.”

OLAF board members voted in late March to approve funding the project, along with proposals from five other legal aids across the state.

“Our goal is to leverage this funding and maximize its impact by funding sustainable collaborations that will improve Ohio communities,” shared Angela Lloyd, Executive Director for OLAF. “We are very excited to fund new collaborations between Community Legal Aid and other community partners in targeted areas to spur community redevelopment.”

McGarrity explained that the projects being funded by this work will help to redefine who Legal Aid is in the community.

“We’re always going to be here to help clients one-on-one, but this helps us focus our work in new ways,” explained McGarrity. “We’ll be in the trenches, embedded within these neighborhoods. We’ll understand the issues facing residents, and we’ll be able to better serve them.

The Legal Aid leader called this work “community lawyering,” and shared that this approach can make a more lasting impact on clients.

“We won’t just be dealing with one legal problem they bring to us,” he continued. “The clients we see will also have access to other support – education, job training, financial assistance – a whole host of resources to address any needs they may have. It’s about providing holistic, wrap-around services, to help the entire person.”

This idea was important to OLAF board members as they made their funding decisions.

“The types of collaborations that Legal Aid is forming are going to make the work they do even more meaningful,” said Lloyd. “It not only helps the community better understand what a great resource legal aid can be. It also makes a deeper impact on the clients’ lives, which is what’s most important.”

Legal Aid expects to start putting in place this new team this spring.

Posted: April 18, 2017