Four PLA Hotlines Provide a Lifeline
From the start of the pandemic-induced financial crisis, calls came flooding into our office every day from community members with similar concerns:
“I lost my job.”
“I haven’t gotten my unemployment check yet.”
And then: “I can’t pay rent this month.” “How am I going to pay my mortgage?”
People who had never missed a rent or mortgage payment were suddenly thrust into housing insecurity. People who were already struggling to make ends meet found it even harder to manage household expenses like food and medical payments.
Four PLA Hotlines Provided a Lifeline
General Intake Hotline
Save Your Home Philly Hotline
Family Law Hotline
Unemployment Application Service
Without pausing intake or operations, we immediately adapted our service-delivery model to accommodate remote work overnight. This adaptation included expanding all three of our live hotlines and creating a new, emergency line to serve clients four days a week. The advocates staffing our hotlines assisted with legal issues, including unemployment, child custody, protection from abuse, rental and mortgage assistance, and more.
“The switch from an in-person paralegal-client relationship to one that takes place solely over the phone was never going to be easy, but it was deeply necessary and allowed us to continue to provide important and lifesaving legal assistance to Philadelphians during a time of crisis.” - Lina, General Intake Paralegal
Our hotline staff also demonstrated agility and responsiveness to emerging needs by supporting several new relief programs designed to expand unemployment compensation or help homeowners and tenants preserve their housing during the pandemic. Our “Save Your Home Philly” Hotline entered the Landlord Tenant space for the first time in PLA’s history, and was the only live hotline providing assistance with Philadelphia’s rental assistance program. Months later, they adapted again to act as navigators for the Eviction Diversion Program.
“I’m very grateful to be on this hotline because we’ve been able to help so many people. I know that challenges will continue but we have so many people who are ready to face those challenges head on.” - Madeline
While the pandemic fundamentally changed how the world operated, it did not occur in a vacuum. Clients called our hotlines with legal issues that began before COVID-19 and that had been further exacerbated by COVID-19. While the courts had closed for in-person hearings, our Family Law Unit still had clients with legal needs that warranted immediate attention. Protection from abuse and custody cases involve anxiety-inducing legal processes to navigate. To have the financial and social pressures caused by COVID-19 added on to this can make it unbearable. By connecting over the hotline, our staff were able to offer clients a listening ear, a strategy to address their legal needs, and a sense of peace knowing that they were not alone.
“During the pandemic the hotline was pivotal in ensuring the community had updates regarding family court. Families were able to access the courts and get the protection and help that they needed by calling the hotline. The hotline acted as a bridge between the family court and Philadelphians during the pandemic.” -Caroline, paralegal in the Family Law Unit