By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Nella was struggling with an issue with her landlord, but had no idea how to go about handling it. Having moved not long ago from Houston, Texas, she doesn't have a large network of people to call upon for help and her job at a non-profit doesn't exactly pay her enough to hire a high-powered attorney. She didn't know what to do.
Then, as she was walking down Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, she was handed a flyer from somebody at the Brooklyn Defender Services.
"The timing really couldn't have been better because I was going through this issue with my landlord and I didn't know how I was going to handle it," said Nella, who wanted her last name withheld due to said legal issues. "Coming here really helped because I got to speak with someone that understands what I'm going through and knows exactly what my rights are. I'm definitely feeling a lot better about my situation."
The Brooklyn Defender Services, an organization that helps to provide criminal, family and immigration legal defense to over 40,000 people annually, hosted a Community Law Program Initiative at the Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Saturday
The event featured 15 different groups that provided everything from legal advice, to job training, to assistance finding a home, assistance for the drug addicted, domestic violence support and a lot more.
"Brooklyn Defender Services is a criminal defense organization, but often we deal with clients that are in need of other services as well,” said Jamie Burke, a Domestic Violence Case Supervisor at BDS who organized the event. “We might help someone facing criminal charges, but also needs drug treatment, a domestic violence shelter or even a parenting skills class and we constantly have to refer out for that.
“We thought that we could help a lot of people get the services that we need by inviting all of these organizations to come to this event so we had everything under one roof,” Burke said.
Getting the organizations together was the easy part, Burke said. The problem was getting the message out to people that there was a program set up where they could go and get the help that they need.
“The biggest challenge is getting people in. We did email blasts, we handed out flyers, we mailed out letters to over 300 churches in the community to tell them to tell their constituents,” Burke said. “I’d like to have events like this more regularly, but it’s going to be hard if people don’t come.”
Even with the disappointing turnout of only a few hundred Brooklynites, Burke is still happy about the event as the people that did show up were able to get help and seemed grateful for the support.
“There is so much info and material here that does not get to the people that need it,” said the churches’ pastor David L. Kelley II. “We have to do more to get the people to come. We want to make sure that we help somebody so that this will not be done in vain. We’ll do it again and again if we have to.”
Some of the organizations in attendance included Samaritan Village, the FDNY, Young New Yorkers, the district attorney’s office, two employment agencies including the ACE Program, the Borough of Manhattan Community College, the Bed-Stuy Community Partnership, the Urban Resource Institute, Safe Horizons and more. Of course, the Brooklyn Defender Services had 20 lawyers on hand as well.