NEWPORT — The Orleans Restorative Justice Center has launched two free initiatives.
Beginning on May 2, the center will add a free legal clinic for elder issues to its regular free legal clinic. The second initiative will begin later in the month and will be a free financial coaching clinic.
Dates and times for clinics will be by appointment to start.
The definition of “elders” in this case is anyone 50 years old or older.
“We organized the legal clinic for elder issues because we saw there was a big need in the region, and elder community members have unique barriers to accessing help,” said Center Director Barbara Morrow. “Finances are a huge barrier for some, but another less considered barrier is discomfort in talking about personal issues.”
The financial coaching clinic is also free for Orleans County residents and includes confidential help to make choices about available money, look at cash flow, and live within a finite amount of income.
“Sometimes people have a money crisis, and that means they need referrals to services,” Morrow said. “But then comes the step where they need to find solid ground again. Some have lost banking privileges and have no safe place to make money transactions. We can help with that if they are game.”
The clinic aims to help people reach money goals, whatever they may be. However, the coaches are not “advisors” nor can they provide investment advice.
“Basically, if what you’re doing now isn’t working, we can help if you are willing,” Morrow said.
Meg Burmeister, Executive Director of the Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging, is in full support of the clinics.
“Older generations face an unusual set of circumstances with many living at or near the poverty level and trying to remain in their homes,” Burmeister said. “Opportunistic lending practices have left many saddled with debt they cannot afford. This coupled with Vermont pride leave them often nearing loss of their homes. We see the challenges people face on a daily basis on our helpline as they struggle with paying bills, heating homes, and ending the month with enough food to eat.”
Burmeister says these clinics will be a godsend in terms of providing an opportunity for people to confidentially discuss their legal problems and get expert advice, which often helps with a plan to get them out of dire circumstances.
The Orleans County Restorative Justice Center operates with a cadre of capable, trained volunteers in addition to its professional staff.
It acknowledges Northeast Kingdom Homecare for support of the elder legal clinic and Community National Bank which has been a long-time supporter.