So many things have changed in our lives in the last 18 months and the number of people in need of legal assistance is greater than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought economic instability to many, and continuing incidents of racial injustice have impacted our lives in many ways.
Through it all, the volunteer attorneys at Pro Bono Network (PBN) have been working tirelessly to help those in need, and are working to train other attorneys to do so as well, at numerous upcoming events in September.
While many of us have experienced unprecedented changes in our personal and work lives this year, low-income people have felt the impact in the extreme. The access-to-justice gap between those who can afford to hire an attorney and those who cannot has grown larger. Increasing numbers of people are on the precipice of losing their housing, health care, jobs, education, benefits, and even lives, and do not have access to critical legal assistance.
State and federal eviction moratoriums are slated to end in the near future, potentially putting thousands in the Chicago area at risk of being evicted. And other legal needs persist regardless of the pandemic, including medically vulnerable seniors who wish to obtain critical advance directives to express their end-of-life wishes and victims of domestic violence who wish to obtain protective orders for themselves and their children.
The existence of sometimes decades old criminal records is preventing some people from securing new jobs or obtaining new housing. And Black, Brown and Latinx communities are impacted with all of these issues at a much higher rate, while also experiencing systemic racial injustices in our legal and economic systems.
Since 2011, Pro Bono Network has provided more than 25,000 hours of free legal services to low-income persons who otherwise would not have had access to critical legal assistance. This year, PBN staff, volunteers, and partner agencies have stepped up in whole new ways, and are creating methods to serve clients in need, remotely and safely, using new technologies and adapting current projects. We have started new programs to address pandemic-related legal needs and racial inequities, including many of those mentioned above.
If you are an attorney who would like to help us seek justice for vulnerable people, we have trainings and opportunities available to get you started. We provide support, backup, and insurance. You provide your time and energy, changing someone’s life at a time when your help is more important than ever.
To learn more, join us at one of our open houses — in person and outdoors on Thursday, Sept. 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Taylor Park Picnic Shelter in Oak Park, or online on Friday, Sept. 10 from noon to 1 p.m. at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82646942989?pwd=VmljSER4eHVObEM1MGpWeU82Vmt0dz09.
For more information you can visit pro-bono-network.org or email Sheila Pont, director of programming at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Linda Rio is executive director of Pro Bono Network.