by Dan Glazier
Achieving Dr. Martin Luther King’s “oasis of freedom and justice” referenced in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech should be a priority of the highest order. This freedom
and justice should come without regard for race, creed or income. However, in reality, the tools needed to achieve this justice are out of the reach of many. Our constitutional right to free legal counsel does not presently apply to civil matters. What can one do if faced with the loss of housing? If Medicaid benefits are withheld? If parental rights issues arise? Individuals and families who cannot afford access to our justice system are typically
underserved and underrepresented. Where is their “oasis of freedom and justice”?
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) is a community and region-wide resource that has been striving to make this dream a reality for the last 50 years. LSEM is an independent, non-profit organization that provides free, high-quality civil legal assistance and equal access to justice for low-income people in Eastern Missouri who qualify for our services. In 2012, LSEM served nearly 20,000 clients and their family members. We serve a true diversity of clients of all ages and income levels. It is the goal of LSEM to help ensure that justice isn’t just for some, but for everyone.
Some of LSEM’s services to promote justice include:
The Lasting Solutions Program, helping women and
children who are in danger because of domestic violence.
- The Children’s Legal Alliance, providing quality,
child-centered legal and social support for children on educational
- The Public Benefits and Advocates for Family Health
Program, helping people enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care programs and
other public benefit programs.
- Housing services, including representation at
eviction proceedings and mortgage counseling.
- The Consumer Unit, providing representation against
predatory lending practices, breaches of contract and illegal collection
- The Family Court Project of St. Louis County, helping
parents who need legal representation in hearings that could end in
termination of their parental rights.
- The Immigration Law Program, assisting clients with
issues including naturalization, family reunification and deportation.
- Community Economic Development Program, helping
clients establish non-profit organizations and small businesses.
Local support from individuals, foundations, public funds, United Way, Area Agencies on Aging, area businesses and law firms help make LSEM’s pursuit of “justice for all” possible. By everyone in our community working together, we can bring alive the words of the great Dr. King in his famous appeal, “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
Dan Glazier is Executive Director & General Counsel for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.