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Kansas Legal Services helps the vulnerable in trying times


Editor's note: This is the next in a series of articles highlighting the agencies that receive funding from United Way of Ellis County.

Editor's note: This is the next in a series of articles highlighting the agencies that receive funding from United Way of Ellis County.

In 1977, the Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita Legal Aid Societies merged to form Kansas Legal Services Inc. Kansas was only the second state in the nation to become a single, statewide legal aid entity. With this foundation, Kansas Legal Services has grown to 11 legal services field offices and two mediation offices across the state, serving all 105 counties.

KLS progressively has focused its efforts on special needs individuals, such as victims of domestic violence, the homeless, children in foster care, the elderly, farmers, those with disabling conditions, individuals seeking access to health care, those seeking mediation services and persons who need basic life skills and employment training.

The mission of KLS is to provide equal access to justice for persons not able to pay for legal and other essential services. KLS is also a vehicle for keeping many low-income people from falling permanently into the category of chronically poor. It serves as a conduit by which many low-income people successfully get back on their feet and become self-sustaining.

KLS provided services statewide to more than 30,000 low-income people in 2012.

United Way of Ellis County funds two programs of KLS-Hays. The first, the domestic violence program, is designed to assist survivors of stalking and domestic and sexual violence in Ellis County. Obtaining protection, custody or divorce orders allows the survivors of domestic or sexual violence the opportunity to change their situations and move forward in their lives. KLS-Hays staff make sure each survivor has a safety plan in place to help the survivors and their families feel safe, secure and self-sufficient. The attorney and the survivor discuss goals that will lead to the best outcomes for her and her family.

Of the clients served by the domestic violence program in 2012, all clients were assisted with meeting one or more program outcomes by developing a safety plan, referrals to other services, and legal assistance (advice or representation) when needed.

By KLS-Hays providing legal advice and representation, survivors are able to:

* Have some immediate or emergency questions answered.

* Obtain knowledge of the legal process.

* Understand and consider their different options.

Litigating a case involving domestic violence can temporarily provide the survivor of domestic violence with custody of the children, place parameters on the contact between the abuser and the family, and establish ongoing support and residency.

All of the above provide stability by helping to assist in financial security, personal safety, basic needs and assisting the individual to become more self-sufficient. Completion of litigation allows the above issues to be finalized so that the survivor and family can move past the trauma and into a better life.

The second program funded by United Way of Ellis County is the consumer and landlord/tenant program of KLS-Hays. This new program is designed to benefit individuals who have questions, concerns, legal issues with financial matters and landlord/tenant disputes. KLS-Hays staff have seen the need growing for individuals who need help with consumer problems that can affect their livelihoods and employment. KLS-Hays serves as a place to call for landlord/tenant questions and assistance, especially needed in a town that has a high volume of university students living in the community. In consumer issues, client families learn debt management and repayment and outreach activities have increased clients' understanding of budgeting, finance and housing rights and responsibilities.

For more information or to apply for legal assistance, call (800) 723-6953 or visit www.kansaslegalservices.org.