Legal Aid Services of Collier County launched the “Women and Girls in Need” Project more than two years ago through funding by the Community Foundation of Collier County. Its purpose is to provide legal services aimed to address challenges facing low-income senior women, women heading households with minor children, and women and girls with disabilities.
After receiving a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation in 2016, Legal Aid Services has assisted 61 women during the grant term by providing them with legal protection. In addition, this grant allowed the Project attorney to perform nine separate outreach events, totaling about 26 hours which were attended by approximately 240 individuals. Outreach events were conducted at several locations in Collier County, including the Collier Resource Center, JFCS of Southwest Florida, and the American Association of University Women, among others.
One case of note was the wrongful eviction of an elderly woman. She came to Legal Aid because her landlord refused to renew the lease for her home. The woman, who had lived in the same, low-income housing for several years, was afraid she would be unable to find a new home due to her fixed income. The landlord refused to renew the lease claiming that the woman had been “noncompliant” with the lease during the prior year. This “noncompliance” stemmed from the woman leaving a garbage bag outside her door on a single occasion. In this case, the law required that there be “good cause” to not renew the woman’s lease and Legal Aid demanded that the lease be renewed. The landlord’s attorney agreed and a renewal lease was signed, allowing the woman to remain in the home.
Since the project’s inception three years ago, this grant has enabled Legal Aid Services to assist nearly 300 economically at-risk women and children — providing them with a legal voice and profoundly impacting their lives.