January, 2011 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Hope House Civil Legal Assistance Program.
In January, 2001, Hope House hired a full-time paralegal and began contracting with a full-time attorney, Mary Weir, to represent victims of domestic violence in civil legal matters. Over the last ten years the legal program has represented thousands of women in obtaining orders of protection, custody of their children, child support, divorces, name changes, and in other civil legal matters.
Throughout this ten year period, the program has been primarily funded from a grant through the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). However, there were actually two years when the OVW funding didn’t come through and Hope House, recognizing the immense need for direct legal services, managed to continue the program on its own.
While Ms. Weir has continued on as the contract attorney over the ten year period, there were also times when the funding permitted Hope House to expand the program to two full-time attorneys and extra support staff. Hope House is happy to announce that we are in the process of once again adding a second attorney and our paralegal of eight years, Shannon Pollard, continues in her full-time position.
In addition to the direct legal representation the legal program provides, the contract attorney also successfully argued to the Missouri Supreme Court in 2004 for the protection of the identity and records of all persons served by domestic violence agencies in Missouri.
Frequently, the legal program receives comments or letters from women expressing their gratitude for helping them obtain safety, security and empowerment in the face of a daunting legal system. We know that this program has not only changed women and children's lives, it has saved them.