Advocacy to Address Community Problems
Pisgah Legal Services not only provides direct legal services to individuals and families, our staff also advocates for policy change, collaborates to solve community problems, and defends the interests of groups of low-income people in State courts. This “big picture” work has improved the lives of thousands of people across our region and the State. The following are some highlights of our efforts:
- Urging N.C. General Assembly to Expand Medicaid
- Watch this Facebook Live Event with PLS COO Jaclyn Kiger and NC Senator Terry Van Duyn.
- Urging N.C. General Assembly to Relax Stringent Unemployment Eligibility Criteria
- Urging N.C. General Assembly to restore and increase funding for civil legal services statewide to $15 M from current $1 M
- Advocating with Social Security Administration regarding serving beneficiaries during Covid-19 Crisis
- Persuading WNC courts and clerks of court to stop evictions and executions of eviction orders to prevent dangerous homelessness
- Advocating for Supplemental Security Income recipients to receive stimulus checks
- Asking for additional clarification from Administrative Office of the Courts regarding continuances of certain court cases, particularly domestic violence protective order hearings
- Urging local foundations to create a fund for rental assistance
Pisgah Legal Services leads local efforts to solve housing problems and prevent homelessness for low-income people in WNC. Together with local partners, our advocacy resulted in a 75% reduction in the number of chronically homeless individuals in Buncombe County between 2005-2010.
In 2018, Pisgah Legal Services Managing Attorney Robin Merrell was elected chair of the Raleigh-based North Carolina Housing Coalition where she advocates for statewide policies to increase the supply of safe, affordable housing and decrease the number of homeless residents.
Strengthening Sexual Assault Laws in NC
On October 31, 2019 the NC General Assembly passed a wide-ranging legislative package reforming sexual assault laws. Until then, North Carolina was the only state in the nation where continuing sex with someone after that person revoked consent was not considered a crime. In addition, in September Governor Cooper signed into law North Carolina’s “Survivor’s Act,” also known as “Standing Up for Rape Victims Act.” It requires law enforcement to test the backlog of more than 15,000 untested rape kits and to implement a policy to avoid future backlogs.
Pisgah Legal Managing Attorney Julia Horrocks helped advocate for these and other important changes through an advisory role on the NC Domestic Violence Coalition, along with the Department of Justice, Helpmate and other partner agencies. PLS thanks Women for Women for grant funding that supported this advocacy.
Keeping Elderly and Disabled Individuals in Their Homes and Out of Institutions
Pisgah Legal helped secure a State court decision to preserve personal care services, such as help with bathing, dressing and eating, for more than 2,400 North Carolinians with severe disabilities. These services allow seniors and other individuals with disabilities to remain in their homes and out of more costly institutional care.
Securing Child Care Resources for Families
With community partners, PLS successfully advocated in 2012 for state policy to more equitably distribute child care subsidies across N.C. and to reduce the impact of drastic cuts in mountain counties. This action saved an estimated $600,000 in child care funding for counties in our primary service area, ensuring safe, affordable child care for hundreds of working poor families. PLS and its partners continue to advocate in 2013 at the state level to improve the system for allocating child care subsidies across N.C. and ensure that our limited dollars will be more efficiently utilized.
Helping Victims Secure Court Protection From Abuse
Pisgah Legal Services worked with local justice officials to make court protection more accessible to victims of domestic violence. PLS attorneys were instrumental in the establishment of a designated day for domestic violence protective order cases in District Courts in Buncombe and Henderson counties. PLS attorneys also advocated for a policy change to allow victims of abuse to secure protective orders outside of regular business hours, so they would be protected if abuse occurred in the evenings or on weekends.