Just Help Closes Its Doors

Just Help Legal Advocacy Center, a local nonprofit legal aid organization, closed its doors in February 2013 due to the inability to attract/retain qualified legal staff necessary to continue operation. Just Help was started by a group of committed community members to address the lack of legal services available to the working poor, to people whose primary language is Spanish, and to low income people who need urgent legal help. It tested a new model of legal aid, asking clients to contribute to the cost of legal services through a sliding fee scale based on income and family size. Throughout its 2 ½ years in operation, Just Help was overwhelmed by the demand for its services, confirming the significant need for legal assistance for this constituency.

While its tenure was short, there was significant good that came from Just Help’s work:

  • Discounted legal services were provided to over 1200 clients
  • Bilingual services were provided, offering Spanish-speaking clients the only opportunity to receive legal aid in their primary language.
  • A new model of legal aid was developed, showing great promise given the necessary staff to carry it forward. In recent months, the organization had become fiscally self-sustaining.

This last point makes it particularly painful to close the organization, but it also leaves the door open for reviving Just Help in the future should a committed attorney want to take advantage of groundwork that has already been done to develop and test this model of legal aid.

Just Help has enjoyed amazing financial support from individuals and churches in the community and is very grateful for the resources entrusted to it. Clearly these services are needed and the community is ready to help. The board hopes that Just Help’s closure will not be permanent and that others will take up the cause to ensure that all Elkhart County residents can access quality, timely and affordable legal services.

Attorneys interested in exploring the reopening of Just Help should write to info.justhelp@gmail.com .

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