Jan 15, 2017|
United Way’s Terri Westerfield discusses the many services offered by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.
United Way’s Terri Westerfield discusses the many services offered by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.
United Way’s Terri Westerfield discusses the many services offered by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.
Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)
Hello everyone welcome to united way lives united. I'm Terry Westerfield. And to me today I have friends in from Louisiana Apple's seat. And southeast Louisiana legal services. And we are here to talk about a variety of topics but especially those who need some help with. Titles after the flooding a look at the program Christie kaine who is the executive director of Louisiana apple C welcome Christy thank you thanks for having us. Also are welcome Paul Tuttle who is the managing attorney for the southeast Louisiana legal services welcome thank you thanks forgot about you or your last year and unfortunately boy my nature is not been to legalize and we backed while talking about some of the same same issues and that's that's clear title to property and and more in all of you were listening you'll hear why that is such a big problem and it relates to what our mission here is at united way. You know we've southeast Louisiana has a blueprint for prosperity. We want to eradicate poverty in our region. Now we are strategically investing in programs and initiatives collaborations. An advocacy efforts to meet the community greatest needs. We have a bold vision of how critical communities or all individuals are healthy educated. And economically stable in Jefferson Orleans Blackmon Saint Bernard saint Tammany. Tangible ho and Washington parishes. And like the united way Louisiana apple seed in southeast Louisiana legal services. Are trying to solve problems at the root cause and resolve some of the issues that are greatly impacting some of our more vulnerable citizens. And as a kind of mention that the beginning of the program here it is several months since those catastrophic storms hit it and August through September all the flooding. And a lot of folks are still working trying to get back in our homes we know that most of the mucking guiding has been done but there's still some of that. We're trying now to the rebuilding process and it is is where it can get to be. The sticky wicket. So I don't know if you'd like to start off Christie Paul let's jump in let's talk about clear title as Sony seems to be particularly. A problem. In Louisiana and I don't find out that's an historical or cultural war all of the above kind of reason. It's it's traditionally been a problem I'm throughout the deep south not just in Louisiana and it's a problem that has plagued our community for generations and generations and unfortunately out of our community has become a bit. We become complacent that perhaps between disasters so. It's probably that was highlighted by the storms of 2005 and then by the flooding at 2016 but of course it's a problem that that predates both of those event. And Sarah and that's how Louisiana house it actually became involved and mess this effort. Is back in 2007. After. Kind of the dust had settled from hurricanes Katrina and Rita and Ike and so on I don't Pollyanna yeah. That we have. We started getting phone calls out when Lee kind of that's when we first came into existence actually in the state straining phone calls about folks trying to. Redeveloped parts of the upper Ninth Ward that running into title issues in other words there's recovery money available for a family to rebuilt and Rick. Come home. But they couldn't access that money because the title in the house's paperwork was in a deceased relatives named Graham mine can't. And everybody's just fine usually with a relative living in the property and passing it on. In formally inheriting it but without the legal paperwork the government can't issue checked into a person right. Sitting need the proper documentation to issue a ticket to the rightful heir. So we began taking elect and retreating volunteers to take a look at how can we change the law on small succession. To make it easier and cheaper for people to clear title. And Selanne and that's what Louisiana proceed as we recruit lawyers to take a look at the tough issues can and try to find a system maker policy solution. And so that's who we did in this instance it says that's when we began to partner with southeast Louisiana legal services said could probably sideways at all. That's when we started working with them on some legislative advocacy. Knowing that asks I'll lastly and was already working in the community to try to help clear title. And ball you'd be doing it for a little bit longer argue Japan entered into existence about the same time is that Louisiana Apple's. Right well about the same time after Hurricane Katrina because I had been doing actually family law before that time and we started getting a lot of phone calls afterwards with people having this issue. I'm sort first I was put in charge of a recruiting. Volunteer attorneys from out of state because our local attorneys were overwhelmed too. Common and we have local attorneys and and we had staff attorneys and all we did for the next eight years was six sessions and trying to two clear title property for people. Side unfortunately were getting a lot of experience with disasters here in southeast Louisiana. And Baton Rouge flooding just highlights the problem all over again for a different locale. So clear title is you know in Louisiana. Any transfer of private property has to be in writing. And that writing has to be recorded in the conveyance office a local parish conveyance office in order for it to be recognized by third parties. Like banks and mortgage companies and government. I'm so that's a clear title which is that work has been done in that document has been recorded and you know that the records show that you are though owner of that property. So we had to do donations sometimes we had to do a lot of six sessions because people had died and and passed on the property to their heirs and Ayers had not done the paperwork. Come before Katrina you had to go to court to do success and you had to have a court judgment in order to track transfer property tourist the succession. One thing that apple seed in SL lasted together wise to an actor helped to. Push for the enactment of legislation that would allow. Property be transferred just by affidavit that's recorded in the campaign's toughest. It's called small succession affidavit and it's for properties that are worth 75000 dollars or last. Erupt here right here because are you saying affidavit I think most people know that is but explain and in what it amounts to is. Does that person have to be there are here she has to file or they just signed the claim that the affidavit that has been written for the how does that. What the law requires that certain information be put in the affidavit. It you know who died and when they died into the air darn information like that. Almond and it is signed by the heirs and it's no motorized before notary and two witnesses those at the requirements for this small succession affidavit. And usually need an attorney to help you address that and get that done. It may not necessarily but it it's a lot easier to have an attorney helping with that. Hum our law firm deprive it nonprofit law firm that provides free legal servers civil legal services for low income person so we've been doing a lot of small succession affidavits and courts exceptions for people. So if you are net position and you don't have the money for an attorney we we encourage you to call us. To see if you're eligible for our services we might be able to help. Well Paul go ahead noses that in most appropriate time please give a phone number. A web address if you have. What everything is that the best way for people to contact you think and we actually have several offices we operate throughout southeast Louisiana all the way up to Baton Rouge. How many get the Baton Rouge number could there might be people in that area who have been affected that number for our office up there is 225. 4480080. And then our local New Orleans office is area code 5045291000. Great pop and Christian deceiving the false argument kind of the service here that he's in. But now Paul you have offices. Around the state or is earth we have offices in Hammond. Homeowner Covington Baton Rouge hard B and New Orleans to your coverage kind of more of from Baton Rouge shall write and I North Shore and a nor shall see but Kristy you now our senior gore 08 you are statewide organization. We are where is statewide nonprofit and we we do try to service not just New Orleans and Baton Rouge but other. Affected areas in Louisiana when it comes to issues like title their property or perhaps increasing access to education for school age children. I'm also access to justice issues who work a fair amount to ensure that justice. Is being carried out in the court system especially for them more vulnerable. Populations those who can't speak for themselves so we get some projects that are geared toward increasing language access in the court. I'm making sure that in the form a Popper rules rules are applied fairly in other words if you go to court and you can't afford the filing fees. There is actually a weighty can proceed with the case without putting those ads without paying his fees up front. And so says sometimes the lies is applied differently in different geographies throughout the states or trying to work with other organizations to to ensure consistency. How I was gonna say how. Because these are not state laws and their municipal laws is that why they are different or sometimes sometimes there at local laws but then sometimes there. More statutory. Debt something that the legislature has put into place like in the form a Popper system such that that would be a statewide. She okay. But it is that rid Alley in just using again examples. The clear title. We know that the flooding impacted so much from everywhere from some are nor short of the pair should that we serve not a waste we're talking to and to crow it's candy. And Washington but also. Paul you mentioned from Baton Rouge beyond. And we know into Acadia it's just been tough. So now you're not only talking about some you're trying to get help people but you're navigating these different. Laws that can sometimes impede your work our progress. Exactly. One of the main things that. What's impeding our clients was paying these court costs in order to go to court and get their success in judgment. So another good thing about the small succession affidavit that you don't have to pay those court fees you still have to pay the recording fees and a command toughest that you usually a lot less than the court fees. So that was a big issue for us and continues to be an issue for some people. So how do you look to authorizations were. Individuals and pondered whether these kind of players are sick individuals. Kristi likewise our other law firm for things how how do you go about finding the economic resource is that you need to mockery. Well for us as a nonprofit I mean we do raise funds through private donations and and by. It's the united name and foundations and other raised and we can we generate revenue. Another though I think an important source resource for us is not just. Dollars which of course every nonprofit needs but also are pro Bono attorneys so as I said earlier we recruit lawyers to do pro Bono work. But instead of providing direct legal services they try to look at an advocacy issue in other words it's more project based pro Bono work they look at a problem. And try to figure out how to solve it within the legal system with an education system and says that's a let when are we strategist Tony used his skills. Lawyers we still encourage them to do traditional pro Bono work in other words take on those cases and clients but if they have time and if they can't take a step back and look at. How making one change in the law can affect thousands of people at once and not just this generation generations to come. And suit so I think one governments valuable resource is is our prep and volunteers and we have seen many who worked on on this project in particular having to do is appear titled. Atoms in Greece is one FM I recently Patrick Johnson in Baton Rouge has taken on some of that because the issues related to you. The flooding in that area and so. Those changes if there put into place and we hope they aren't. Will affect not just the greater reach area that the state and statewide Santa Ana Katie and a north Louisiana. Throughout so we're really excited about that. And how likewise how would does it work for companies who served under your very small and again but you have been different offices are you operate together or independently. We are one law firm and we're actually one of those of the they're law firms and Louisiana just because we have about forty attorneys and and support staff. But we get our money to various grants federal state and and local grants. We also use a lot of pro Bono attorneys and we have them work directly with our clients directly on cases. How we have a lot of law students that come out and help us from oil and two lane in southern and all the other law schools and LSU. And in fact in the Baton Rouge area and our working with different organizations including apple seed. To bring help deferred flooded out flood victims in that area that need clear title and so we have a project it's just starting up there. And where were working with LSU school clock. And the united way in that area and we're gonna come together we're gonna do the legal work for people that are eligible for our services. How come we're going to you actually we have some funds to pay the court costs and a recording feature if people can truly cannot afford to do that. I'm so we've been you know we've been generously given some funds to do that. And we are also excited about a new thing that we worked on and are just bringing out it's called flood proof and it's a phone app. And it's available on android and apple phones and you can buy that your App Store it's called flood proof. And what it is is an app that goes through all the information and documents that he needs to get together in order to do a succession. Alms and you can also access our free legal services that way if you're eligible for our services but even if you're not eligible for free services you can use this app. To gather together the information and documents that you would need to bring to a private attorney or to any other returning. To do this work so it's a useful thing for everybody. Coming not just flood victims I'll say if you need to do a succession you can take a look at this. This event is pretty amazing and it. Who developed it all local laws somebody gave Indy contract with or somebody can of this great ideas said. Wait a minute this is something metal Lotta people can use so is it nationwide. Or specific. To Louisiana. The slippery app for now is specific to Louisiana and defense who are responsible for developing an Emerson grateful to them are on the American Bar Association has division. That deals with disasters in kind of the practice of law post disaster. And they have a wonderful represented ten here in Louisiana GDP Martinez of her name says she has spearheaded that effort to launch this bulletproof app. Along with some some technical people at Stanford Sistine Howard. Has been hugely involved in developments out and what I'm excited about is that pollen nine southeast Louisiana legal services in Louisiana apple seed as we mentioned have been involved with this work. Since the world of post-Katrina Rita I totally that that 2005. Inch of rain to now it's great that is this is what's different from last time right I mean this is what happens I guess when only at eleven years later community. Are another comedian a different part of our state is starting to see some of the same issues that we. Minorities in Maryland and inexperienced and so say this is just a really adding innovative way not only to help this thanks in. Apartments in the project that app this conflict pre consumers the project and it's being funded by the baggage area foundation and others united way and it's hard that is well. And I am sued the geography is east batteries ascension Livingston parishes at least for that one project as Paul said. Don't hesitate to reach out if you need help regardless of harsher and you might be displaced in saint Tammany more. He might have a grandmother knew that intention and I feel like where Louisiana is is such a tight knit family community that we probably all know somebody who has impacted by the flooding whether ten is three parishes east batteries. Ascension Livingston. Or elsewhere and the point is there's hell there's help out there right now if you need it. And the flood proof project in EV ER a sentient and Livingston for right now has a sunset. So in order to get the legal services he need to take it in Japan by October 31 of this year so you need to you if you know some pioneer fits you yourself. He really do need to get in touch with with flood prefer with the screen and southeast Louisiana legal services is taking the lead. On the directly he'll serve says the bill we wanna emphasize that the community regardless of where you are. Did at least then legal services in this three parishes for now. How to sunset on October 31 in other words free legal services may or may not be available after that time. And that the filing fees as Paul mentioned there are for now comfort financially okay great could dwindle. They could dwindle and and so we just wanna emphasize you know when and who knows maybe the president can be extended or maybe the geography will change booked the point is to go ahead and yet. The process leaving now and said there is a number that plea I can get that specific to flood proof and it's 1844. 24478. Cent in line. And we tell you to take a deep breath. And let's get that all over again to get you somewhere to a trendy red headed paper right now show senator if you don't mind clear that tighten the name of the project is flood pre. And he found number is line. 844. 244. 78. 71. And again not particular project for right now. His four people who have property in east batteries ascension Livingston. But we really don't want to dissuade anyone from reaching out because chances are there could be helping your area as well. And so we really want and curse takes two to go ahead reach out either easing the numbers Paul gave earlier where this went in particular. I said it's extremely important and as we move forward. I think what struck me in so many others who are working to help those who were impacted by the floods. You have so many people here about who had lost everything perhaps in Katrina. Or Rio or as we mentioned all the over port for hurricanes have come through in the last almost a dozen years. They moved to higher ground where they think they're going to be safe and bin. It's happened again. And without the clear title without this piece of paper that's thing. Let's talk a little bit about that because we know how we are prone. To mother nature's whims whether it be a hurricane or flooding he never knew it was going to happen. What's the average. Homeowner do should they. Always have this on file should they always have a copy what how do you protect yourself for the future. Well I mean you always want to have clear title was like you said you could lose your home go fire tornado or anything at any time. Do you want to had to know that your name is recorded as the owner and commence office and if that is not the case than you wanna do whatever legal working need to do. In order to get that done. You wanna have a copy of that document that transfers ownership TU. And and that's very important and keep that in a safe place and if you evacuate you wanna add that what do you. Because as we found that in in New Orleans sometimes that commands office records can now I got destroyed yes. So you may end up passing the only copy. And you need that. If you are homeowner you wanna think about what. Do I want to happen with my property when I pass. In Louisiana the law says that if you don't write it well that's the property will be passed in equal measure to all you for your children. If you don't have children and it would go to your siblings and there's a whole ranking of people who would inherit your property that basically the state would be in deciding who are inherit your property. My right thinking that could be quite confusing and take quite a few years. Right if you have five children and want him to armour living out of state you know all of them organ and need to use sign on any mortgage documents or ownership documents or help her you know post flood. Application for funds. So that can be unwieldy and and hard to do as. If you have a brother Bob who decided to go out west how many years ago nobody knows better revenue Bob exact or talked about everybody can be displaced or. Wading into making tracked Bob down right. Right I mean after Katrina we had some you know shotgun. Houses in the Lower Ninth Ward that were owned by. 35 people. While you know divided up amongst all the heirs and and all and the road home project was requiring every single one of them to sign up he's not yet has ran exactly. So you wanna think about who's gonna live in a property who who. Is you know gonna most need the property. Maybe you ought to write a welcome to be right well you can do whatever you want in the well you don't have to accept with the state has decided it's gonna inherit your property if you wanna do it differently you write it well. If you got one child who's disabled and and you know you want them to be able to live and home than they go to a lawyer and plan for that and write your well. Make sure that the person that is going to inherit the property had a copy of the well knows where the original source give them the original. Because they're gonna need that documents to prove ownership afterwards after you pass you wanna make sure you know I don't keep it totally secrets that nobody can find it after you pass away. And that's that he kind of got to stay on top of you wanna make sure you pay your property taxes so you don't have to a sales tax of your property. If you don't pay your federal income tax that the IRS can put a tax lien on your property which can complicate things when you're trying to. To get clear title. So make sure if you have any issues with the IRS to deal with those issues. And try to avoid having attacks clean and records and I just sort of put out a world. Plug for myself I'm currently the director of a low income taxpayers clinic as a kind of work I'm doing right now. How we help people resolve issues that the IRS so 5291000. Area code title four as sudden who owns office where I'm located. And please again you take injury a deep breath. And get it because people are listening and will racist right. If you're having issues with the IRS if you're getting any notices from the IRS or you have liability that you can't afford to pay. I am the director of the low income taxpayers clinic at southeast Louisiana legal services and our number is area code 504. 5291000. Making policy if you're low income and can't afford an attorney to help you with this that we might you open it might be able to help you resolve here iris. Issues do what you both are so busy and all of the fact that you're engaging so many others in your profession. And a probe opportunity that these you've developed. Paul we'll come back. I wondered at it kind of shift a little again because Christa we just barely touched the iceberg of some of the projects that I know Louisiana Apple's seat is involved you mentioned a few bet I'm licking its of these every. Teen dating violence through education. And (%expletive) ensuring education for children experiencing homelessness. And we can go on and you've got a food policy. Food or feed more for us. A Louisiana charters. Let's stop and talk about a few that don't we don't have more stranger both coming back but again this goes back to advocacy work you're going to influence the legislative. And if things you see these big issues that are looming and need to be tackled link to that were caught yeah and it sounds. Now that you read the list is impressive to me how. On behalf of our volunteers I'm very impressed by their work and buyer organizations Burke. At the same time it's on the brawler for the Matt but we have way we do have a way to kind of organize this at least from our board's perspective on our program committee's perspective. Byron mentioned. Is to increase access to education access to opportunity and access to justice. And in doing those things we believe that attorneys can give back to the community. I advancing social justice as a whole. And says the proxy mentioned mostly actually coincidentally have to fall in the access to education category because we want. I kids in Louisiana have access to quality education. And sometimes those projects nineteen different forms one is that we've had a great project that has to do with preventing teen dating violence. We along with the law firm keen Miller. And our legal felon Geneen salad and went to the legislature years ago and asked them to change the law on. Mandatory teaching two children about it. Relationship appease now at age appropriate grade seventh through twelfth. And now every public school and Louisiana must provide some sort of education each year's part of their curriculum about relationship appease the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. And the point is trying to you to me. Our youth understand early on the signs that could meet domestic violence domestic U beast later. And you mentioned just briefly the fade policy project that project we we went before Bessie before the board of education and care Louisiana. And our volunteer Allison Berger tiller advocated that they change a policy. That would feed more kids for less money is kind of very sound in a radio and and and that's they felt and says they went ahead and and tweaked the policy and as a result hundreds of thousands of kids are being fed. Here Louisiana a program RD existed we just yet to opt intended as a state now has as the school districts could in the heat and so and so that's that's a big success that we do have just against her volunteers. We're so grateful for their work. And you have some things are pretty good about the drama begins we're talking about as you said this is committed to his teen dating violence were education and seven through twelve and under proper behavior. And now I'm gonna swing because depend on them right back over here do you ball because southeast Louisiana legal services you've been doing so much for somebody years for those were victims of domestic. Right actually our firms started in 1967. Which is the same year is born so we're both turning fifty this year are you or your child. But we've been around a long time we originally were new loans legal assistance and we expanded our area became southeast Louisiana legal assistance. Com we have a lot of different units of of one of our biggest sister family lie unit which helps victims of domestic violence. We worked together with closely with other partners like projects save over Catholic Charities they helped get protective order bird victims and and we help to do to extend its legal services like divorcing custody. We have a bankruptcy you know we have a consumer you know we have a foreclosure unit these are all civil legal problems that we try to help people with and if you have any of those issues please give us a call. And I just wanted to mention very quickly some tax related things that are of interest to people who are disaster victims. One is that you can. Declare casualty losses on your to federal income tax in order to deduct whose taxable income. And you can go back and Emanuel last year's return if you need to use it there too. The state is also gonna return any sales tax at a charges on any things that you buy to replace that were damaged in the floods like cars and or. Wash machines things like that so make street and lists that keep your receipts and less that on your state return you can get them back to the refund. And lastly some deadlines for filing have been extended in those disaster related areas so you wanna look at the IRS and Louisiana department of revenue website for any deadlines had been extended. Great thank you Paul increased and that book from a sort of time that we would dimensions of two that's coming up and be really on our heels here it is he good apple gala. And take what we know it's January 19 that this this isn't too big for you and it all necessary funds we need funds to operate. Right and this is this is our annual fund raiser are so excited about it it's next Thursday or Thursday January 19. And it's from 630 to 930 and we have some great volunteers that are being honored this year. We have captain pres that he an injury kept a tally MMA Canada and Elizabeth but which have worked on various projects for us and they really just pillars in the social justice community. Just evolved doctor hills and Charles writes from Entergy so we're sip based on aren't these folks and and the rest of the people who work so hard to keep Louisiana apple seed Michigan what are you go and help you how they can purchase tickets online or who they call or where they got and isle Louisiana Apple's C dot org is our website and so that's probably the place to start to learn more about us and to see how to get tickets in the gala. You that we barely group just harvest eggs and it really wanted to talk a lot about the flooding in these but promise me right now. You'll both vaccine to talk about all the other wonderful things you do promised chair that you have to combat crown ride. Thank you both Christie Kate who is the executive director of Louisiana apple seed. We have Paul Tuttle. Who is the managing attorney for the south east legal services. Folks I thank you for joining us today and I want you know the united way of southeast Louisiana has a blueprint for prosperity. We want to eradicate poverty in our region please find out more about it visit our web on it united Wacey let dot org. Or you can cause that area code 5048225540. I'm Jerry Westerfield and for united way who live you know.