Legal aid to hold community forum
Published 9:39 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The Virginia Legal Aid Society wants to know what you think about issues facing low-income people in Suffolk.
The society, which helps low-income people in the community with civil legal problems, is facing revenue cuts and is seeking the public’s help in determining where to focus its resources. It also is in the midst of revising its strategic plan, which it does every five years.
A community forum will be held next week for the public to give its input.
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“We have significantly declining funding over the last two years,” said David Neumeyer, executive director of the legal aid society. “We’ve lost about 17 percent of our total funding, and we know we’re going to get another cut by Congress next January.”
The cuts have left the society with a deficit of about $400,000. Neumeyer said if the organization does not find a new source of significant funding, it will have to begin layoffs and cut back on client services.
“A needs assessment process is doubly important to us this year,” Neumeyer said. “We need to find out what are the most important problems, and if we have fewer people to work on them, choose the best way to make use of those limited people.”
The society serves 20 counties and six cities across southern Virginia with a total of 130,000 people who are eligible for its services.
For people who need the help of a lawyer, the society now is able to take less than half the cases it receives.
“It could be next year, we’re taking well less than half of those cases,” Neumeyer said. “The purpose of the community forum is to hear from everyone interested about what the most important problems affecting people in Suffolk right now are.”
The forum will be held March 23 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Suffolk Department of Social Services, 135 Hall Ave.
“We want to encourage people to come out to this meeting and talk with us,” Neumeyer said. “It’s very important for us.”
For people who cannot make it to the forum, a survey is available online at www.vlas.org.