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D.C. Legal Clinic Helps Homeless

Posted Jun 7, 2007 6:43 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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With 23 cents in her bank account, Erica Bermudo couldn't even afford to file for bankruptcy. So she showed up at a one-hour legal clinic held at a local church in Washington, D.C., last month, to see if she could get free legal help with her case.

Such private efforts to provide pro bono legal services are expanding, but still fall far short of what is needed by people like Bermodo, reports the Washington Post. The clinic Bermudo attended, for instance, was focused on the homeless and those at risk to become homeless.

A college graduate struggling with bipolar disorder, Bermudo is jobless right now and barraged with collection calls about $5,000 in credit card debt. She is hesitant to file for bankruptcy, though, because that could make it harder to get a loan, once her life is back on track, and a lawyer at the clinic agrees to explore other options.

"Bankruptcy is a pretty drastic option that we try to avoid," says Ann Marie Staudenmaier, a Legal Clinic for the Homeless staff lawyer. "It might be better not to go that route yet." Instead, she says, a lawyer will call Bermudo's creditors and try to resolve the situation.

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