Law center helps low-income East Bay residents


law clinic

Staff and students at the East Bay Community Law Center were honored at University House Sept. 25.
Peg Skorpinski photo

27 September 2001 | Amid little fanfare but great expectations, the newly chartered People’s Community Partnership Federal Credit Union opened its doors earlier this year in a former West Oakland shopping center.

For local residents, that’s a first.

Scores of banks have grown, then fled, the poor industrialized neighborhood on Oakland’s west edge. People’s Community — the first Oakland financial institution west of Interstate 880 — is a member-owned cooperative, and it plans to stay.

The newborn credit union is a project supported by the nonprofit East Bay Community Law Center, founded 13 years ago by Boalt Hall students. Still partially funded by the law school and staffed largely by law students, the organization now includes a paid staff of 17, including 13 lawyers who teach, advise and counsel low-income people.

Law center staff work, in part, to help nurture community-based organizations serving low-income East Bay residents — providing legal assistance to projects ranging from a new credit union to a collaborative effort to help local residents gain access to the construction trades.

Employment and income support, HIV/AIDS and housing are other program areas — with housing a particularly urgent problem in a notoriously expensive housing market.

Evictions move at a fast pace. As many as 250 clients a day call the law center’s Shattuck Avenue storefront, after receiving 30-day, three-day or illegal 24-hour eviction notices.

Lawyers and law students provide tenants’ rights workshops, a clinic at the Alameda County Courthouse to help tenants represent themselves in disputes with their landlords, and full representation in court for many cases.

Others handle disability insurance hearings for HIV/AIDS clients unable to work, or explain the maze of regulations clients must negotiate in order to receive food stamps or Section 8 housing.

The center provides hands-on training for up to 25 Boalt students each semester, and for 20 interns from Berkeley and across the nation in its prestigious summer program.


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