Programs and Services

Public Benefits Group

The Public Benefits Group provides legal assistance to prevent the loss of a client’s income and to obtain and preserve Medical Assistance (MA) and Medicaid benefits for eligible clients. The Public Benefits Group also offers community advocacy and client representation in denials or terminations of government benefits in the administrative tribunals and appellate courts.

Thousands of Rhode Islanders depend on Rhode Island Works, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, General Public Assistance (GPA), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Unemployment Compensation, Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It is important that we continue to provide legal support to low-income clients so that we can preserve their income, enabling them to purchase basic necessities such as food and clothing, and secure their access to proper health care.

Housing Law Center

Prevent Homelessness
Stop Foreclosures
Create Affordable Housing Opportunities
End Housing Discrimination

Rhode Island Legal Services provides substantial legal assistance in the housing area including: providing advice and representation to clients in eviction matters; challenging the denial of admission to public and subsidized housing; delivering legal education programs in the community; and working with low-income tenant groups to preserve and/or develop subsidized housing.

In addition, funding from the National Mortgage Settlement Agreement has positioned the Project to undertake a broad spectrum of legal activities to assist borrowers impacted by the foreclosure crisis and to bring impact litigation challenging unlawful foreclosure and origination and servicing practices. Furthermore, the staff of the Foreclosure Prevention Project litigate common mortgage-related issues and use bankruptcy as an additional strategy for home preservation. Major litigation of pre- and post-foreclosure impact issues, with the National Consumer Law Center, the nation’s leading experts on foreclosure issues, is envisioned.

RILS’ Foreclosure Project staff will also represent tenants affected by foreclosure; educate borrowers and tenants who reside in foreclosed properties about their legal rights and help develop new initiatives to keep defaulting borrowers and tenants who reside in foreclosed properties in their homes.

Foreclosure Prevention Project

Adding to the existing services provided by RILS' Housing Law Center, the Foreclosure Prevention Project provides counseling and legal representation to homeowners within the state of Rhode Island facing foreclosure as well as tenants living in properties that have either been subject to foreclosure or facing imminent foreclosure. The following are some of the services provided:

• Assistance with loan modifications
• Bankruptcy advice and representation
• Spotting predatory lending practices ("scam alerts")
• File cases in Federal, Bankruptcy and State
• Represent tenants facing eviction from foreclosed properties
• Negotiate settlements with banks

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic

The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is designed to meet the needs of low-income Rhode Islanders who are experiencing difficulties with the IRS. RILS is able to assist low-income Rhode Island taxpayers, including those for whom English is a Second Language, to obtain fair and equitable treatment in disputes with the Internal Revenue Service, and favorable resolution of their controversies with the IRS.

Two components comprise the LITC clinic. The outreach component is focused on education for those for whom English is a second language. The second component of the program is a controversy component focused on audits and representation of tax court and collection cases involving the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Family Preservation Project

Rhode Island Legal Services’ Family Preservation Project functions as an integral component of the Rhode Island Family Court’s child welfare system. The project’s attorneys represent parents who are facing the involuntary termination of parental rights or allegations of abuse, neglect, or dependency that have been brought against them by the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.

The representation provided is based on the individual facts and legal strength of each case. It may include a probable cause hearing, full evidentiary trial and/or post finding reviews. In many cases, negotiated settlements are reached with service plans put into place for the parents involved in the system. These cases are heard before the Family Court and in certain situations before the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Safe Family Project

Stop Domestic Violence
Stop Stalking
Assistance for Sexual Assault Victims

Consumer Debt Group

The Consumer Debt and Employment Group represents clients in matters that have an important impact upon their economic situation and financial stability. The Consumer Group practices before various administrative and judicial forums including the Rhode Island District Court, Bankruptcy Court and the Department of Labor and Training. Consumer law issues are becoming more prevalent in the low-income and elderly communities that Rhode Island Legal Services serves.

Responsible Parent Project

Helping Parents Meet Their Responsibility

Rhode Island Legal Services’ Responsible Parent Project fulfills an important role in the Rhode Island Family Court by representing those parents threatened with incarceration for failure to pay court ordered child support. The focus of the project remains assisting parents to assume their child support responsibilities in a manner that is fair and equitable to all parties. Defendants who are facing incarceration as a result of a Motion to Adjudge in Contempt in the area of child support, and cannot afford an attorney, are referred to the Responsible Parent Project for full legal representation.

Employment Opportunity Legal Corps

Financial Stability and Employment

The Rhode Island Legal Services, Inc. Employment Opportunity Legal Corps is an exciting new initiative that will help secure jobs for disadvantaged individuals by removing legal barriers to employment. The project will with three fellows and six law students seek the expungement of criminal records; the reinstatement of driver’s licenses needed to secure or travel to a job; assistance to obtain an occupational license or prevent the loss of an occupational license; repair a poor credit report that is preventing employment; and assistance connecting clients with job skills and job seeking services after the barrier to employment has been removed

Volunteer Lawyer Program

RILS collaborated with the Rhode Island Bar Association through its Volunteer Lawyer Program to assist in increasing awareness of available resources in the battle to stop the foreclosure crisis. Pro Bono assistance and outreach are important tools in Rhode Island’s battle to stop foreclosures.

In 2013, two “Ask a Lawyer” events were sponsored by the Volunteer Lawyer Program and held at WJAR Channel 10. At each of these evening call-in events, four volunteer attorneys fielded calls from the public in regard to the rights of homeowners and tenants.

In addition, RILS and the VLP jointly presented two trainings, “Foreclosure Prevention & Defense for Homeowners & Tenants,” and “A Roadmap to Loan Modification and Loss Mitigation.” In order to register, attorneys agreed to join the Volunteer Lawyer Program and accept a pro bono case or to provide basic legal advice at a community clinic. Attendance was over 40 participants at both seminars, allowing effective placement of cases that are a conflict for Rhode Island Legal Services.

Rhode Island Legal Services spends an amount equal to at least 12.5% of its Legal Services Corporation Basic Field Grant on private attorney involvement sub-granting IOLTA funds to the Rhode Island Bar Association to administer the Volunteer Lawyer Program (VLP).

Holistic Legal Assistance Network

The Holistic Legal Assistance Network (HLAN) is an innovative project undertaken in 2013 by Rhode Island Legal Services (RILS) with funding support from the Kresge Foundation. Between August 2014 and April 2015, The Resource for Great Programs conducted an outcomes-based evaluation of the first two years of the HLAN Project. In summary:
• Interviews and focus groups conducted for the evaluation revealed that the HLAN project is creating the template for moving a program from traditional “legal aid” to “holistic legal services.”
• Analysis of HLAN’s data indicated that HLAN provides positive outcomes in many more cases than not.
• 10 case studies flagged assets and challenges that may serve as drivers of client outcomes, and suggested a dashboard for providing real-time feedback to HLAN case managers that potentially can significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their efforts to manage HLAN cases going forward.

Elder Protection Project

Rhode Island Legal Services, Elder Protection Project helps elders facing physical and mental abuse, abandonment and neglect and financial exploitation. The sad truth is that approximately one in ten seniors are abused every year. Abused seniors are three times more likely to die than non-abused seniors. Elder abuse is under-reported, only one in every 23 cases is reported to Adult Protective Services.
Unfortunately, older adults are vulnerable to be victimized by family, friends, and others in contact with them. Most elders will not report abuse because of fear, shame, or loyalty to a loved one. The Elder Protection Project seeks to: 1) provide direct legal assistance to protect seniors from physical and emotional abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, and abandonment; 2) increase access to legal aid for seniors by embedding an attorney at the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs; 3) provide social work services to victims; and, 4) provide outreach to underserved and special populations of elder victims including Native Americans, Latinos, and Southeast Asians to describe the direct services available and how to obtain assistance.

The Elder Protection Project is directed by Steven Bagian, Esq., Supervising Attorney. Additional project staff include Attorney Eric Bither, Esq., Legal Assistant Lana Lopez, and Legal Secretary Omayra Alvelo. The Elder Protection Project also utilizes a social worker as a navigator. The target population for the Elder Protection Project is statewide and serves residents age 60 and older.