BATTLE CREEK, MI (January 24, 2020) – Legal Services of South Central Michigan (LSSCM), a division of the Michigan Advocacy Program, will partner with Michigan Works to reduce legal barriers to employment by providing legal assistance and education to low-income Battle Creek residents who are engaged with Community Employment Hubs. These hubs already work to provide employment resources in accessible neighborhoods. The addition of legal services will provide further support for individuals working to access and maintain well-paid employment. This project is supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Accessing and maintaining adequate employment is an ongoing need for individuals struggling to maintain financial stability and climb out of poverty. Employment is one of the best ways to achieve financial stability, yet many people face legal barriers to accessing and maintaining employment. These barriers include legal issues such as discrimination, housing instability, domestic violence, and prior criminal records.
Many times, individuals experiencing these issues don’t identify their barriers as legal problems and don’t seek legal assistance. Even when a legal issue is identified, low-income individuals often lack access to affordable legal services. LSSCM will increase education about and access to legal services to empower individuals served in the program to gain, maintain and maximize their employability. In addition to delivering direct legal advice and representation to Battle Creek residents, LSSCM will provide legal education presentations to community partner agencies and employers.
“This work is very holistic,” explains Alisa Parker, LSSCM-Battle Creek managing attorney. “We look at both the individual legal issues as well as the broader community challenges. That’s where outreach and education play a major role in efforts to increase employability.”
LSSCM’s comprehensive approach addresses employability on all levels, including individual clients, communities, and the broader systems holding underemployment challenges in place. For clients, this comprehensive approach means that LSSCM reviews multiple issues beyond the immediate legal concern. For example, a client may come to LSSCM because of an eviction case. Upon reviewing the case, attorneys may discover that the client can’t pay rent because of underemployment, which is the result of a past criminal record that can be expunged (cleared).
For communities, holistic work means that LSSCM and its partners are engaged in outreach and education events to further understanding and identification of the legal barriers involved in poverty and underemployment. For the broader systems challenges, LSSCM and legal services agencies throughout the state are monitoring potential revisions to current laws and other practices that limit opportunity and financial stability for individuals across Michigan.
Legal Services of South Central Michigan provides free civil legal assistance to low-income persons with an emphasis on homelessness prevention, domestic violence prevention, and assistance in accessing health care, food, and needs-based income programs. LSSCM has several locations across the state, with an office in Battle Creek serving Calhoun, Barry, and Branch Counties. LSSCM is a division of the Michigan Advocacy Program.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal innovator and entrepreneur Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special attention is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.