Access to free legal aid is now available for people earning low incomes on the plateau and surrounding counties thanks to the tireless efforts between local community members and Pisgah Legal Services (PLS). The community was already familiar with PLS’s immigration services, but in 2016 a group of concerned citizens from the Church of the Good Shepard reached out to PLS Executive Director, Jim Barrett, to develop a plan to bring the full range of services to the region including homelessness prevention, protections from domestic abuse, and access to healthcare, benefits and income security. After years of building community support and fundraising, PLS launched services for residents of Jackson and Macon counties in December 2020 in the Jane Woodruff Clinic Building in Highlands, NC.
The Need in Macon and Jackson Counties
The need is great for Pisgah Legal’s free legal aid and anti-poverty services in Jackson and Macon counties. There are approximately 18,737 very low-income people who are eligible for Pisgah Legal’s services and one in four children are living in food-insecure homes. High housing costs and low wages are major factors in contributing to 56% of Jackson County residents and 41% of Macon County residents living in cost-burdened situations (paying more than 30% of their income for housing costs.) With the majority of the workforce centered in the service industry, the pandemic struck the Plateau workforce particularly hard as restaurants, hotels, country clubs and other service-oriented businesses shuttered, leaving thousands without jobs or with severely reduced hours.
PLS Executive Director Jim Barrett says, “This has been a challenging year to say the least, but Pisgah Legal made a commitment to open this new office because we know the needs in Jackson and Macon counties are great. We were able to do that because people on the plateau helped us raise a lot of money, and Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation has made generous grant funding available.”
Members of the Pisgah Legal Highlands/Cashiers Staff
Currently, staff are working remotely in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19, with plans to utilize the facility to its full capacity in late 2021. They encourage people in need of assistance to apply online at www.pisgahlegal.org or call 828-253-0406.
Attorney Patricia Caddell was born and raised in Cashiers. Patricia spent time in private practice in Franklin before joining Pisgah Legal’s team and is eager to help her hometown community.
Attorney Daniel Heyman previously worked for the Town of Hendersonville. Once a law clerk with Pisgah Legal Services, Daniel is excited to return to PLS and looks forward to working locally.
Office Manager Mary Dotson, lives on the Plateau, and worked for a local law practice in Cashiers before transitioning to PLS.
Community Engagement Manager Megan Quattlebaum moved to the Plateau in 2014 where she worked at a local camp and conference center. She works with area supporters, acting as a liaison with other service providers, and is conducting community outreach and volunteer cultivation.
Pisgah Legal is grateful for the overwhelming support from local community members, congregations and partner organizations. Because of you, we are able to provide life-saving anti-poverty services to thousands of people in desperate need. Here are a few ways you can help unleash the power of the law to protect people’s homes, incomes and safety:
- Donate: Thanks to the generosity of ?????? McPhail, every gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000. If you would like to pay by check, please send to P.O. Box 2276, Asheville 28801.
- Volunteer: Remote volunteers are needed to assist with screening potential clients (training provided), data entry and more. Contact Mary Dotson at [email protected] or call 828-210-3424.
- Spread the Word: Do you know someone who could benefit from Pisgah Legal’s services? Help spread the word on social media or word of mouth and encourage people to apply online at pisgahlegal.org or call 828-253-0406.