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GSU's Social Justice Initiative launches legal clinic

Legal Clinic-28

Individuals seeking help to navigate the legal system for issues related to family law, expungement, immigration, and fair housing can now find assistance at the Governors State University (GSU) Self-Help Legal Assistance Clinic (GSU-LC), which recently opened at a temporary site on campus.

At the clinic, attorneys, social workers, and volunteers will work together under the supervision of a licensed attorney and social worker to increase access to legal services in underrepresented communities. GSU-LC volunteers will answer legal questions, provide guidance on finding legal resources, and assist with completing forms.

The legal clinic, just part of the vision that Dr. Cheryl Green, GSU President, has for a Social Justice Institute at GSU, is co-directed by Dr. Phyllis West, Director of the Social Justice Initiative (SJI) and Dr. Vincent Jones, an attorney and Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at GSU. The GSU-LC is sorely needed in the Southland, said West. 

She said the area is home to six of 20 cities with populations of 10,000 in Illinois with the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line.

“Our students, their families and communities in the Southland often need legal assistance as they struggle with issues related to housing, employment, immigration, and health care,” said West. “We will also address the root causes behind the need for legal help, using a model that combines legal and social  services.”

Co-director Jones will lead the legal team. Support will also come from Governors State grad assistants, volunteer case managers who are GSU faculty and alumni, and law interns from other Illinois Universities.

In its inaugural year, SJI set as a primary goal the establishment of the GSU-LC with a $70,000 grant from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF).  Clients can seek help on pro se cases and questions related to family law, expungement, immigration, and fair housing.

On June 12, President Cheryl Green and Provost Schneller hosted a ribbon cutting at the University Library, where clients can be seen while the permanent facility is under construction nearby. The new Social Justice Center is expected to open in fall 2024.

“I am really proud of everyone who played a role in launching this new venture at GSU,” said President Green. "You will change lives.” 

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