Justice for All

By on Sep 10, 2019 in Giving

When Jennifer Smith began working as a staff attorney with Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County (LAFSBC), it was a natural step. As the daughter of a social worker and an attorney, she always wanted to be involved with nonprofits and community service.

Fast forward seven years, and Smith is now the executive director of the organization. She and her team work to correct local myths about legal aid while providing services to the community.

Battling the Myths

“There is a certain perception here,” Jennifer begins tentatively. “Yes, some residents are very wealthy. But Santa Barbara County has the second highest rate of poverty in the state when factoring in the cost of living. Because of that, it makes it difficult for individuals to get the help that they need when facing a legal situation.”

“If you’re dealing with child custody matters with an abuser, or in need of a restraining order, there is no guaranteed right to an attorney in those processes. While the situations are critical, legal representation isn’t guaranteed. That’s why we step in and help. There is a huge justice gap. People can’t afford an attorney that is $500 per hour,” she explains.

LAFSBC also offers a consumer protection program. If there is a financial scam of $10,000 or less, law enforcement often does not have the resources to get involved. For many Santa Barbara County residents, a $10,000 loss is the difference between safe housing and food security – or going without.

“Our legal system presumes that both parties will be represented by an advocate. Legal issues are complicated for everyone. If you can’t get representation, you can imagine just how much more difficult it would be,” says Smith.

LAFSBC also partners with the Santa Barbara Superior Court to help eligible residents in the northern region of the county, an area identified as underserved, in seeking guardianship of a minor child or conservatorship of an elderly adult who can no longer care for themselves. These cases are very form intensive. In the past, people had to return to court multiple times due to errors in the paperwork. “Our program ensures access to justice and promotes court efficiency,” she explains.

The organization’s approach to housing involves educating residents. From this approach, the staff members attempt to deescalate disputes and find solutions that accommodate both landlord and resident. When needed, LAFSB serves as a tenant advocate.

Supporting the Mission

Yardi is a proud supporter of Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County and its mission to ensure equal access to justice. “We are extremely grateful of the ongoing support from Yardi to help us maintain our services and ensure that residents get access to an attorney during a time of critical need in their lives,” says Smith.

The ongoing support of the community provides LAFSB with the resources needed to continue its important work in all four focus areas. One fundraiser, Chowder Fest, has been a community favorite.

Now in its tenth year, Chowder Fest presents the public with an array of culinary delights. Local restaurants serve their spin on classic chowder. The public then votes on their favorite chowder offering. Guests are also treated to wine and beer tastings in addition to other delicious samplings like gelato, pizza, and tacos.

Chowder Fest takes place on November 3. Tickets are on sale now!

Yardi is Energized for Good. Learn more about Yardi corporate philanthropy on our Giving page.