Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation Awards $786,000 to Houston Groups to Provide Legal Aid to the Poor

Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation Awards $786,000 to Houston Groups to Provide Legal Aid to the Poor

AUSTIN, Texas — Eight nonprofit organizations in Houston will receive grants totaling $786,226 from the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation to provide civil legal assistance, such as advice or representation, to individuals who cannot afford attorneys. The Foundation will disburse $11.8 million statewide to providers of legal aid over the 2005 grant year.

Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse will receive $179,082; Houston Area Women’s Center will receive $20,000; Catholic Charities-Galveston/Houston will receive $102,654; University of Houston Law School will receive $62,546; YMCA International Services will receive $102,654; Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program will receive $178,995; NAACP will receive $103,495; and South Texas College of Law will receive $36,800.

In addition to the organizations located in Houston, the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation has allocated $2,369,145 to Nacogdoches-based Lone Star Legal Aid. Lone Star Legal Aid is the primary provider of legal aid for the East Texas Service Area, which is composed of 72 counties, including Bell, Galveston, Gregg, Harris, Lamar and Matagorda. Lone Star Legal Aid maintains an office in Houston. Austin-based Advocacy Inc. will receive $185,978 to serve people with disabilities in East Texas, including Harris County.

The Supreme Court of Texas created the Foundation (www.teajf.org) in 1984 to administer funds earmarked for the provision of civil legal aid to low-income Texans. Currently, the Foundation manages funds from the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program; the Basic Civil Legal Services (BCLS) Program, a court filing fee add-on; the Crime Victims Civil Legal Services (CVCLS) Program; and private donations.

Unlike the criminal system, Texans facing civil legal problems are not guaranteed an attorney. Each year, legal aid organizations assist more than 100,000 poor Texans with their civil legal needs in matters such as protection from domestic violence, access to medical care and landlord-tenant issues.

“Legal aid advocates work tirelessly to provide much-needed civil legal services to the most vulnerable people in our society — from the elderly to the abused to those with disabilities,” said Lisa Melton, director of grants for the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation. “With these grant funds, legal aid organizations can continue their wonderful work of providing access to justice for those in seemingly hopeless situations.”

To be eligible for legal aid under IOLTA and BCLS funding, an individual must not earn more than $11,638 per year. To be eligible under CVCLS, an individual must not earn more than $17,456. However, because the need for legal services is so great, legal aid groups only meet about 25 percent of the legal needs of poor and low-income Texans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 503,000 Harris County residents, or 15 percent of the county population, live below poverty level.

For a complete list of TEAJF 2005 grant awards, go to www.teajf.org.

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