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Bar News - September 16, 2011

Opinion: A Sad Goodbye from NH Legal Assistance Staff


On Friday, August 19, New Hampshire Legal Assistance closed its Nashua office due to a substantial reduction in the funds that it receives from the state of New Hampshire.

During the past six years, we have done our best to deliver high-quality civil legal services to low-income families and individuals in this area.

Our work has been challenging but highly gratifying, as our small staff has helped countless numbers of people to:
  • Obtain Social Security benefits, unemployment compensation and other forms of public assistance to which they are entitled.
  • Avoid foreclosure.
  • Retain their rental housing and housing subsidies.
  • Combat homelessness and housing discrimination.
  • And gain protection from domestic violence.
In short, we have tried to make a positive difference in the lives of poor people who have needed legal help to obtain or retain the basic necessities of life.

Over the course of our time here, we have had the pleasure to work with many fine people from a wide array of service agencies – both public and private – who have worked tirelessly and with great skill and compassion to make Greater Nashua a better place to live for people to whom life has often not been kind.

We will resist the temptation to specifically name such people and organizations for fear of omitting others equally deserving.

For now, we will simply say that due to the efforts of these people and agencies, I believe Nashua has the finest human service delivery system in the state. We are profoundly grateful for their work on behalf of our mutual clients.

What makes our departure so frustrating is that it marks a significant step backward from the achievement of a goal shared by the vast majority of the people of this state and this community – equal justice for all.

Though seriously flawed in its execution, the roots of this goal were planted at the beginning of the republic. It is hard to accept that it is somehow less compelling because we face difficult economic challenges.

Indeed, the sad irony is that in times such as these – when so many of our neighbors are facing the loss of their homes, jobs or both – that our services are needed more than ever.

As we close our office, we promise we will do whatever we can to find meaningful ways to continue to serve our clients in Greater Nashua from our Manchester office.

We won’t pretend that we can do the job as well as we did, but like so many other agencies that have seen their budgets slashed, we will do the best with what we have.

And we will try as hard as we can to find a way to reopen here in Nashua.

In the meantime, thank you for your support and understanding from our staff:
Candace Gebhart, paralegal.
Vickie Brooks, paralegal.
Elizabeth Hidalgo, paralegal.
Rose Lamerand, administrative secretary.

Elliott Berry is managing attorney at New Hampshire Legal Assistance. John Tobin is executive director.

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the August 21, 2011, edition of the Nashua Telegraph and is reprinted here with permission.

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