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City Council Office
 Policy Order Resolution
  O-7
  AMENDED ORDER
  IN CITY COUNCIL
  May 5, 2014
COUNCILLOR SIMMONS
VICE MAYOR BENZAN
COUNCILLOR CARLONE

WHEREAS: For decades, Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services (CASLS), which merged with Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) in 1996 to become its Cambridge office at 60 Gore Street, has provided free, civil legal services to low-income Cambridge residents with issues concerning housing, obtaining state and federal government benefits, elder law, and mental health/disability rights for adults and children with psychiatric and other disabilities; and
     
WHEREAS: The exemplary services provided by the dedicated attorneys and support staff at CASLS help hundreds of residents every year with fighting unjust evictions, Section 8 terminations, denial of eligibility for public or subsidized housing, and other fair housing issues. The residents who have utilized CASLS would have had few other agencies to turn to for these services; and 
     
WHEREAS: CASLS also frequently provides legal advice, information, and technical assistance to various local social service agencies. In addition to fielding constituent questions from individual City Councilors, CASLS regularly provides guidance and support to the Cambridge Multi Service Center, the Council on Aging, CASCAP Resident Services Coordinators, Cambridge Health Alliance clinicians and staff, the Guidance Center, Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services, and many other organizations; and 
     
WHEREAS: CASLS also regularly engages in extensive policy work to ensure access to affordable housing in Cambridge, and to ensure that the rights of low-income public housing applicants and tenants are protected. This advocacy work is often pursued on behalf of the Alliance of Cambridge Tenants, the city-wide organization of public housing and Section 8 voucher tenants of the Cambridge Housing Authority; and     
 
WHEREAS: The City of Cambridge has long recognized the critical importance of having CASLS located within our community. It ensures that low-income residents have an organization that is truly accessible, that can provide legal triaging, assessment, case referral or management, and is run by skilled, knowledgeable, and compassionate professionals. The loss of CASLS from this community would be devastating, particularly to affordable housing tenants and advocates. It is for this reason that the City of Cambridge has contributed over $50,000 annually to help fund this essential community partner; and  
     
WHEREAS: The City Council has recently learned that GBLS must make significant reductions in its budget due funding cuts, and it is seriously contemplating closing the Cambridge office. If this were to happen, the loss to local low-income residents, social services providers, affordable housing advocates, and the City itself would be overwhelming. CASLS has estimated that it will need an additional $140,000 per year to secure its continued Cambridge operations; now therefore be it 
    

ORDERED:

That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the appropriate City personnel to determine the feasibility of allocating an additional $140,000 annually to Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services to ensure that this vital organization can continue serving the people of Cambridge; and be it further 

     

ORDERED:

That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to set up a meeting with CASLS representatives to determine if the City can assist this organization with identifying and securing additional outside sources of funding or any other way to support CASLS staying in Cambridge, and that the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the City Council in a timely manner.
    

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