Poverty Law Advocate program now offered by Cowichan Women Against Violence Society

The Cowichan Women Against Violence Society is now offering the services of a Poverty Law Advocate.

Lia Versaevel’s Poverty Law Advocacy program is being funded by a $299,000 grant from the B.C. Law Foundation.

“It’s actually really important throughout the community because so many people are not aware of the devastation that poverty brings to both individuals, and families,” Versaevel explained. “Through the sponsoring organization, CWAV, I will serve people at all ages of life, all genders, and be available to speak at events or to targeted audiences. This speaks to social justice issues overall as well as to the systemic health of communities.”

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About 80 per cent of Versaevel’s time will be spent devoting her attention to direct client service in the form of phone calls or in-office appointments. The rest of her time will be split between community outreach, education, research, administration and reporting.

“Historically, B.C. has had high rates of child poverty and poverty throughout all demographics. This initiative is to help people navigate the bureaucracy, find the answers they are looking for, and assist those who are overwhelmed by the paperwork to reach satisfactory outcomes,” Versaevel said. “Referrals to other agencies will also be made, where appropriate, recognizing that in many situations, there is overlap of jurisdictions, which causes some confusion. People in poverty often do not have access to the internet or phones, and need someone to guide them through the appropriate channels to get the help they need.”

For example: a person who is having a landlord/tenant issue may call to see if there are resources to help them with rent increases or terms of their lease. Or seniors may qualify for housing subsidies, or may not be getting all of the income benefits to which they are entitled and “I can guide them through the process to improve their situation and use the resources at their disposal,” Versaevel said.

“People will call in for information first, and make an appointment where needed,” she added. “Some public education sessions will be provided, and some outreach will be done to agencies who would like me to talk about what the foundation has funded, and how that translates into actions I can take to assist.”

In some situations, Versaevel will be able to attend hearings with clients to represent them, or assist them.

To learn more visit www.cwav.org

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