Senior Legal Services Project Fights Elder Abuse

By Stephanie Barclay, Project Director, Senior Legal Services Project, a SLO Legal Alternatives (SLOLAC) program

The call came in like so many others. The woman on the other end of the phone call, “Anna”, said she needed a divorce. “This one will be easy,” I thought, since Senior Legal Services Project (SLSP) does not handle divorces. Armed with my referral list and prepared to offer the caller the names of three family law attorneys she could call, I started asking the caller a few questions. I quickly learned that Anna was an 82-year-old widow living alone in a mobile home that she owned, her only asset. She was obviously lonely and vulnerable, although she tried to act strong through her tears. Anna met her husband, a frequent visitor of another resident at the mobile home park, only a few months earlier. Her new husband was 55 years old, unemployed with no money and no permanent housing. He offered Anna companionship, which she enjoyed, and soon thereafter, he suggested they get married and that Anna put him on title to her mobile home. Anna complied, thinking that married couples share everything anyway, so why shouldn’t she put him on title?

Crying on the phone, Anna explained to me that her husband soon became abusive — pinning her down and even threatening to “cut her in half.” He also warned Anna that he would take her house and her car if she divorced him and no one would believe a “crazy old lady” if she called the police.  Fortunately, Anna had friends in the park got her in touch with SLSP.  We took the case and quickly obtained a temporary restraining order with a move-out order.

SLSP handles elder abuse cases, but so often, as in this case, our clients have legal needs that we are not equipped to handle. It is in times like these that we reach out to the private bar for help. This time, family law practitioner Ken McDaniel stepped up and said he was “happy to help.” Ken quickly met with Anna and prepared the dissolution petition.

It is a lot easier to bully an elderly woman, living alone, with no family nearby, than it is to bully an elderly woman represented by an attorney.

After a few twists and turns, Anna’s husband backed down, agreed to transfer the mobile home back to its rightful owner and the two parties entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement drafted by Attorney McDaniel. “I couldn’t ask for a better lawyer. Ken did very well at listening to me and solving my problems. He has been my strength. Thank you!” Anna said with a relief.  “I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me and am finally able to sleep at night.”

SLSP provides free advice, consultations and representation for approximately 350 clients per year. Due to our county’s growing vulnerable, elderly population, many more need our help. Unfortunately, they are currently being turned away, due to of a lack of sufficient resources. The Project Director is SLSP’s only paid employee (part-time at that), handling all administrative work, volunteer attorney coordination, client screenings, personal caseloads, even purchasing paper clips for the office. We need volunteer attorneys and administrative staff! These volunteers are vital to SLSP and can be utilized as little (or as much!) as they would like, assisting with any number of services, including: assessing intakes, handling a particular case directly, or being available to answer questions in their area of expertise, as needed. Our volunteers are what make SLSP one of the most revered non-profits in SLO County.

 

SLSP also desperately needs additional funding. If you cannot donate your time, please consider making a 100% tax deductible donation on our website at www.slolegalalternatives.org or email Stephanie Barclay about opportunities to sponsor or support our next fundraiser, a New Year Speakeasy Gala on January 3, 2015 at the San Luis Obispo Country Club.  The Country LEGENDS Gala sold out quickly so do not miss your opportunity to attend this FUNdraiser!  Your support helps SLSP continue over 20 years of service for some of SLO County’s most vulnerable residents!

 

If you would like to support the important services that Senior Legal Services Project provides, please contact Stephanie Barclay, Project Director, at 805-543-5140 

or Stephanie@slolegalalternatives.org to find out how you can help.  To simply make a tax-deductible donation now, please make your check payable to: SLOLAC and mail it to SLOLAC, 1011 Pacific Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, or donate on-line at www.slolegalalternatives.org



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