I’m truly inspired by what I’m seeing. As we all work together to confront and endure a pandemic that no one could have imagine, we are seeing precisely what you’d expect of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and its team working for equity and justice.

As president of Legal Aid’s board of directors, I can personally assure you that:

• Legal Aid is essential, responding to the basic needs of our low-income clients who are particularly vulnerable right now

• Legal Aid is open for our clients, many of whom need our free legal services more than ever

• Legal Aid was ahead of the curve, taking immediate, coordinated steps in early March to ensure the safety of our nearly 100-strong staff members and our clients as we seamlessly moved our operations off-site.

I’ve been in touch, literally on a daily basis, both with Legal Aid’s leadership team and with our highly active and engaged board and committee members. What I’ve witnessed in this new reality is nothing short of amazing.

Led by Colleen Cotter – our visionary and indefatigable leader – and joined by her outstanding leadership team, Legal Aid staff were nimble and able to quickly transition to work from home because of great infrastructure. This strong team of staff and volunteers are working in the trenches to deal with many matters for which there are no plays in the proverbial playbook.

One result of this crisis, of course, is the horrible economic toll, one which seemingly overnight rendered a growing percentage of our community to become eligible for Legal Aid’s services. Legal Aid has already seen a rise in questions related to housing rights, domestic relations and legal questions related to economic justice issues.

One example illustrates well the importance of Legal Aid right now: an older adult who lives in a Cleveland suburb faced a court-ordered a 45-day moratorium on evictions, but the landlord would have none of it. He wanted the person out and locked the person out of her apartment during a period when the Ohio governor had ordered everyone to stay at home. The person sought help from Cleveland Legal Aid and attorneys prepared to file for a temporary restraining order. However, once opposing counsel learned of Legal Aid’s engagement, the person got new keys to her apartment. Our involvement with the case saved the person from endangering her health and losing her home.

Please be part of Legal Aid’s work to make change happen in our community. Join me and many others in supporting Legal Aid, which is battling on the front lines, of helping clients address pandemic-related issues like lost jobs, housing, safety and security, and benefits.

Learn more about Legal Aid’s work and join us at lasclev.org. Your support will help us provide the best legal representation for our clients and continue our high-priority mission of ensuring access to justice.

Michael Ungar is president of the board of directors for The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and a partner at Ulmer & Berne LLP in Cleveland

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