Home Consumer debt WNEU sets up free legal kiosks to help economically disadvantaged people in Springfield

WNEU sets up free legal kiosks to help economically disadvantaged people in Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – Kiosks are set to go up all around Springfield to offer legal aid to anyone in need and the Center for Social Justice at Western New England University is on hand. origin of the idea.

For the center, it is a way to help economically and technologically disadvantaged people get answers to legal questions. Director Ariel Clemmer told Western Mass News that this type of computer station will allow for “greater access to justice.”

“Anyone who doesn’t have the necessary technology devices, Wifi or broadband can drop by one of these free kiosks and connect to free legal resources,” Clemmer said.

That’s not all. The kiosks also allow users to get more information on legal issues or cases, as well as use Zoom to connect with their attorneys or the court system. This project is the second phase of the Consumer Debt Initiative, which was established in 2018 to help Springfield-area residents who were dealing with credit card issues and consumer debt. The legal kiosk project lasted two years and was fully funded by the MassMutual Foundation. Dorothy Varon, board member and West New England alumna, said another goal of the project was to help bridge the digital divide.

“During COVID, for example, when all the courts were going virtual, if you didn’t have broadband and you couldn’t get connected virtually, you were really almost unable to participate in the legal process that you were involved in “, Varon noted.

Booths will be in ten locations, including one at the Western New England University School of Law Library. Other sites include the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, New North Citizens Council, United Way of Pioneer Valley, and Open Pantry Community Services. The equipment will also be at five city libraries, including Brightwood, Forest Park, Indian Orchard, Library Express at Pine Point and Mason Square.

Dory Welch, Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for the Center for Social Justice, is a resident of Springfield. She helped find suitable locations for these booths and is proud to be a great help to her community.

“I love my community. I’ve seen over the years the strengths we have, but also the challenges, so I’m very pleased that we bring such a great and much needed resource,” Welch said.

Aside from those who might be at a disadvantage, Clemmer told us the device can be a boost for the general public.

“It really is a resilience tool to help people empower themselves and connect to the justice system on their terms,” Clemmer explained.

The University of Western New England Center for Social Justice will host a kiosk launch event on Monday, October 17 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Services in Springfield from 5-6:30 p.m. The public will then be able to use the devices the day after.