As part of a new grant awarded by the Department of Justice to South Coastal Counties Legal Services, Inc. (SCCLS), Independence House clients will be able to obtain consultations and services for cases which involve children with jurisdictional custodial issues, housing and immigration concerns such as the U Visa which gives victims of certain crimes temporary legal status and work eligibility in the U.S. The Legal Assistance to Victims (LAV) grant was awarded this spring to SCCLS. The initiative is referred to as The Legal Intervention for Survivors of Abuse Project (LISA Project). SCCLS will collaborate with six domestic violence agencies throughout Southeastern Mass and Nantucket. A Safe Place in Nantucket, SStar Women’s Center in Fall River, The Women’s Center in New Bedford, Family Community Resources in Brockton, South Shore Women’s Center in Plymouth and Independence House with 4 locations on Cape Cod will all increase services for clients over the next three years as part of the grant. Independence House clients without financial resources are encouraged to use these services. Appointments for one-on-one legal clinics must be pre-scheduled and are offered to active clients.
A dedicated pro-bono Independence House volunteer group of attorneys who have provided services for over three years will continue to offer one-on-one legal clinics to clients on a variety of family law topics such as paternity, divorce, custody, visitation and child support.
In addition to the expansion of legal clinics for clients, for over 15 years, Independence House SAFEPLAN civil legal court advocates are available in Barnstable Probate and District Courts, as well as Orleans and Falmouth District courts. These civil legal advocates offer assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking who are seeking relief from abuse and harassment in the form of abuse prevention orders (209A) or harassment prevention orders (258E). Advocates also provide safety assessments, crisis intervention, personalized safety planning and referrals to resources and support services.
An active legal committee also meets regularly to evaluate victim’s needs and continue the expansion of legal services for clients of Independence House as appropriate.