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LINCOLN HEIGHTS : Legal Aid to Open 2 More Offices

January 02, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles plans to open a community-based office by April 1 to serve the Northeast Los Angeles area.

The office, which will have a staff of 15, including five attorneys, is one of two new offices for the organization, which aids the poor in legal matters such as eviction, receiving government benefits and consumer fraud. It will also open a new office at Crenshaw and Olympic boulevards in April.

Part of the plan is to keep staff members communicating with neighborhood residents so they can identify problems easier and work on solutions faster, said director Tomas Olmos.

"People who are located in community-based offices are more in contact with people in the community, whereas people who have been working in specialization units tend to get isolated and not in tune with the community," Olmos said.

The northeast office will likely be in Lincoln Heights, although officials have not found a space yet.

It will serve the communities of Huntington Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown, Elysian Valley and Boyle Heights. With the East Los Angeles office at Whittier and Atlantic boulevards, clients will have the choice of going to the office closest to them, said attorney Sharon Lowe.

The foundation will also establish a fast-track office that handles government benefits and eviction defense, and each community-based office will develop plans specific to its client base, Lowe said.

"It's a change in the way Legal Aid has operated in the last 10 to 15 years," Lowe said. "The client is the one who has been disenfranchised for so many generations and the question is how do we get to these issues that have to do with the quality of life. We can do government benefits but never help our clients have a better quality of life."

In the Northeast area, private developers have increasingly proposed plans that could dramatically alter neighborhoods. Lowe recently helped a group of El Sereno and Lincoln Heights residents monitor a proposed development at Mission Road and Broadway, which was dramatically scaled back as a result of their work.

In addition, the neighborhoods could receive help keeping track of the Eastside Neighborhoods Revitalization Study that focused on parts of Boyle Heights and El Sereno, said attorney Roberto Aldape, who will manage the new office.

Legal Aid will also hold regular meetings in communities where residents still have difficulty visiting the offices, Olmos said.

The plan is to make legal services more accessible so the residents improve their knowledge of legal rights and become more adept at making their political representatives listen to them, Lowe said.

"My role is to assist the community so they understand how powerful they really are to hold their politicians accountable, and the entities coming into their neighborhoods accountable and be an equal partner at the table," she said.

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