Move downtown has had an impact on upper city
Mountain social agencies can expect to be hearing from Hamilton Community Legal Clinic officials in the coming months.
Hugh Tye, executive director of the clinic, said they are looking to renew their physical presence in the upper city after the Hamilton Mountain Legal and Community Services offices at the Fenworth Plaza closed at the end of June 2011 as a result of the amalgamation of three city legal services into the downtown HCL operation.
“We know anecdotally from talking to our colleagues and social service sectors on the Mountain, the physical loss of the (Mountain) clinic has been felt,” Tye said.
He noted in 2009 HMLCS opened 218 files where they provided legal representation compared to 305 files that were opened for Mountain residents by the new downtown clinic last year.
However, the Mountain clinic also received 2,418 calls or emails for advice where no legal representation was provided in 2009 compared to 1,802 calls and emails from upper city residents to the downtown location in 2012.
Overall, the clinic’s 29 staffers provided service to nearly 13,000 in Hamilton people last year.
While the legal aid-funded clinic, which provides free legal advice, referrals and representation to low income citizens, is accessible by phone and email, Tye said they suspect there are many residents on the Mountain who would use them if they could provide some sort of face-to-face service.
“Does the physical separation between where somebody lives and where they might receive services make a difference? Overall the answer is that, yes some prospective clients are feeling the loss and might access services if it were more localized,” Tye said.
The downtown clinic is looking to work with Mountain agencies on a number of options, including the possibility of having one of their staffers on hand at the agency at certain times during the week or month.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Denise Arkell, executive director of Neighbour to Neighbour Centre, a well-known west Mountain agency that operates a food bank, school tutoring program and other services. “We would welcome a conversation about partnering (with the clinic).”
Arkell said she was saddened when the Mountain legal clinic closed its doors two years ago.
Tye said they are also looking to establish links with agencies in the east end andStoney Creek.
Those communities were also affected when McQuesten Legal and Community Services closed and moved to the downtown location as part of the amalgamation.
Dundurn Community Legal Services was the other group involved in the merger.
In addition, the downtown clinic is planning to increase services to local aboriginal and LGBTQ communities as well as youth and seniors in Hamilton.