Orville H. Copsey Safe Housing Initiative
The Orville H. Copsey Safe Housing Initiative serves low-income elderly and disabled clients who have been cited by the Marion County Board of Health for having conditions that make their homes unsafe or unhealthy.
Many of our clients are on limited incomes (Social Security only) and struggle to afford the upkeep on their houses; over time, their homes develop leaky roofs, rotted outdoor siding, missing gutters, etc. All too often, small maintenance problems eventually lead to larger ones. In our role as the client’s advocate, we attend Court hearings and intervene with the Board of Health and the Court on behalf of our client. Our usual process is to obtain permission from the Court to break large projects down into manageable tasks that can be completed over time. We then work with our client to bring the home into compliance with the Health Code, and attempt to match the client with appropriate local organizations that can help with repairs and other assistance necessary to bring the home into compliance with the Code.
This program is invaluable to our clients because if the home is not brought into compliance with the Code, the Court will ultimately Order the client to vacate the home. After a Vacate Order is issued, the client is made to move out of the home, and may be left without housing, while still being responsible for the property. In addition, the safety and well-being of all of the residents of the neighborhood are negatively impacted by having a vacant house in the vicinity.
When our attorneys are able to prevent a Vacate Order, and instead get the Ordinance Violation case dismissed, the client remains in the home; the health and safety of the home environment is improved; the safety and security of the neighborhood are preserved; and the home values in the area remain stable because the house remains in good repair and occupied by its current owner.
Through this program, Legal Aid is also in the process of creating The Orville H. Copsey Resource Guide. The guide will provide a list of community resources available to assist low-income individuals with home repairs and services; agencies that provide senior housing alternatives; and a list of shelters that will provide a home for pets.
Thanks to a 2018-2019 grant from the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), Legal Aid, in partnership with NeighborLink Indianapolis, has been able to help an increasing number of senior citizens remain in their homes through The Orville H. Copsey Safe Housing Initiative this year.
The Children’s Guardianship Initiative, working with the Marion County Probate Court, is designed to help low-income families keep children out of the juvenile court and foster-care system by assisting family members or friends obtain guardianship of the minor child. The project will not only improve the life of the child, in addition to lightening the court’s case load, it will allow time for the biological parent to focus on their issues to once again become a full-time parent and a productive citizen. No other organizations in Marion County provide legal assistance for low-income child guardianships in the probate court.
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.
The Legal Aid Domestic Violence Program’s purpose is to prevent future family violence. It provides free legal assistance and victims’ right education to victims of domestic violence, elder abuse, and/or child abuse to help victims achieve safety and stability. Legal Aid also offers assistance in civil court proceedings and referrals to partner agencies where appropriate.