Indianapolis Legal Aid Society (“Legal Aid”) recently renamed our comprehensive housing program after our long-time, recently retired housing attorney, Orville Copsey. The Orville H. Copsey Safe Housing Initiative is an all-encompassing project to keep senior and mentally and physically disabled adults in their own homes when possible through efforts to provide legal resolutions and obtain repairs to homes threatened with condemnation by the Marion County Health Department. These services will strengthen neighborhoods by keeping houses occupied and repaired, and keeping homes on the tax rolls.
While most seniors would prefer to remain at home, often their homes require repairs that they cannot afford or upkeep that they physically can no longer perform. This has certainly proven true for the clients who have turned to Legal Aid for help. The Orville H. Copsey Safe Housing Initiative seeks to help these clients remain at home. As part of this program, Legal Aid attorneys work with the staff at the Marion County Health Department, including Marion County Health Department attorneys and social workers to create a plan of action that will enable Legal Aid clients to bring their homes into compliance. The Marion County Health Department continues to refer new cases to Legal Aid, and we believe the demand for our help will continue to increase. In some situations, a client may not be able to stay in his home any longer and the attorney will assist with finding alternate housing, and a guardianship if deemed appropriate.
Legal Aid is also creating The Orville H. Copsey Resource Guide. This guide will detail a list of resources that will include among other things vendors that will provide home repairs at a reduced rate, agencies that will provide services at no cost, lists of shelters that will provide a home for pets, and agencies that provide senior housing alternatives.
Click here to read more about Orville’s work to keep Legal Aid clients in their homes.
The Child Permanency Project, a partnership between Legal Aid and Child Advocates, Inc., was designed to keep children out of the juvenile court and foster care system by helping family members obtain guardianship of the minor children so that their parents can focus on getting the help they need. Once the guardianship is established and the child is in a safe and stable environment, the Child in Need of Services (CHINS) case can be closed. The project is estimated to help 400 to 450 children annually get their CHINS cases closed and into permanent homes. Legal Aid is the only legal services organization in Indianapolis that do guardianships.
Legal Aid’s Peace Resolution Center offers free meditation services in family law cases for parties who qualify financially. Eligible types of cases include divorce, paternity, custody, parenting time, child support, grandparent visitation, and miscellaneous other family law matters. In addition, the Center holds conflict resolution courses to educate parents and provide them with tools to have productive, meaningful discussions with co-parents regarding their children. Legal Aid mediators are family law attorneys trained as professional mediators and are either members of our staff or volunteers.
The primary purpose of Legal Aid’s Re-Entry Program is to assist ex-offenders by providing education, advocacy, and legal advice and representation, thereby helping to remove barriers to successful re-entry. When ex-offenders return to the community after completing their sentence, they are often discriminated against because of their prior arrests and convictions. This discrimination occurs in several aspects of the ex-offender’s life including hiring and promotions, qualifying for affordable housing or securing a mortgage, and the inability to obtain certain licenses to advance careers. It can even occur when a parent is unable to volunteer at a child’s school event due to a prior felony, regardless of how long ago that felony may have occurred. Several clients have explained to Legal Aid that they tried to make changes in their life after one conviction but when they were unable to obtain employment and therefore could not provide for their families, they felt frustrated and turned to drugs or stealing and the lifestyle they knew could make them money.
During the past few years, Legal Aid has seen a significant increase in the number of individuals looking to expunge their record. Due to the complexity of the ever-changing expungement law, individuals have one chance to expunge their record and in many cases it can be very difficult to do without the assistance of an attorney. Many clients simply need information and legal advice to determine whether or not they qualify for an expungement. Legal Aid attorneys work with clients to advise them on the requirements for an expungement in relation to their particular case.