Standing with Survivors

You may not know her name, but Lhakpa Sherpa is the world’s most accomplished female Everest mountaineer. She has successfully summited Everest seven times – more than any other woman in history. But when Lhakpa’s marriage to her long-time climbing partner was coming apart, she needed Legal Aid’s help. An ethnic Sherpa from Nepal, Lhakpa did not receive a formal education. Lhakpa says that when she was growing up in Nepal, girls did not attend school.  So, when she separated from her husband, Lhakpa went to work as a housekeeper in the Hartford area in order to support herself and her two daughters.  A local domestic violence program referred Lhakpa to GHLA.  Collaborating closely with Lhakpa’s domestic violence advocate from the shelter, Lhakpa’s GHLA attorney represented her in her divorce trial, in which she obtained sole custody of her girls. Members of Lhakpa’s legal team also accompanied her to criminal court when she was a victim-witness in a case the State prosecuted against her ex-husband. Today, Lhakpa and her girls are living in their own home, and she is working and putting her life back together. Lhakpa summited Everest for the seventh time in 2016, following her divorce, and she brought a memento of GHLA to the top of the world.  (An earlier attempt to summit for the seventh time in 2015 was cut short by the earthquake and avalanche in Nepal, which struck while Lhakpa was on the mountain).  Lhakpa has recently been featured in various publications, bringing renewed attention to her climbing accomplishments. With the support of GHLA and domestic violence advocates, Lhakpa is once again hopeful for the future.

Commitment to Community

In an effort to better serve the legal needs of our low income population in Hartford County, GHLA has been partnering with agencies in towns to deliver our services where they are needed the most. In the past few years, towns like Bristol, East Hartford, and Enfield have seen a dramatic change in their demographic and ethnic composition. Lower income people comprise an increasing percentage of the people who live in these towns. More people face job loss, evictions, the need for economic supports while transitioning to other work, and an array of family and other legal issues that accompany such instability. This is happening at the same time that the economic and state budgetary crisis has led to a significant reduction in resources for human services.  GHLA has responded to this through   direct legal outreach in those communities and partnering with local towns in community driven initiatives. The attorneys field a range of inquiries from clients.  Attorney Rafael Rodriguez Cruz focuses on family, education and disability issues.  Attorney Lucy Potter focuses on benefits issues and child support.

In Bristol, we have partnered with the Bristol Community Organization (BCO) to have Attorney Rodriguez Cruz and Attorney Potter meet with clients at BCO’s office on 55 South Street. Attorney Rodriguez Cruz is there every other Thursday from 9: 00 AM to 2:00 PM. Attorney Potter goes once a month. Services are available by appointment by calling BCO’s number (860) 584-2725.  

In Enfield, GHLA has partnered with Neighborhood Services to have Attorney Rodriguez Cruz at their office every Tuesday from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the office on 100 High Street, Enfield, CT. Attorney Potter also goes once a month. Services are available by appointment by calling Neighborhood Services at (860) 253-6396.

In East Hartford, GHLA has partnered with the Public Library to have Attorney Rodriguez Cruz, on Thursday and Fridays from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, at their recently renovated building at 840 Main Street, East Hartford. Services are available without an appointment or by calling (860) 541-5052. Residents of East Hartford can also check the schedule on the Library’s website.

A Champion of Justice

GHLA Attorney David Pels was honored on April 14, 2016 with the Connecticut Bar Association’s Charles J. Parker Legal Services Award for his 43 years of dedication to the pursuit of justice for low-income residents of our region.  Since joining GHLA in 1997, he has represented clients in about 3,600 cases.  His advocacy has strengthened tenants’ rights by preventing the ejectment of unnamed tenants in foreclosure cases, requiring relocation assistance to tenants displaced by code enforcement, strengthening protections against retaliatory evictions, and requiring landlords to purchase smoke detectors.  He has also represented tenant associations during redevelopment by housing authorities.  Attorney Pels is a most deserving recipient of this significant recognition.

                Attorney David Pels

Community Justice Fellows

As Community Justice Fellows at GHLA, we are both the “face” of GHLA in the community, and a link to the broad and comprehensive services GHLA provides.  On a practical level, we spend three afternoons each week meeting with people and conducting outreach at Community Health Services (CHS), a community health clinic on Albany Avenue in Hartford. We provide legal informational pamphlets to anyone who’s interested, and we direct people facing legal problems towards someone who can help them – whether it’s an attorney from GHLA, a private attorney, or someone from another nonprofit or government agency. We also provide information and support to the staff of the health clinic, to help them try to address the non-medical, sometimes legal, issues that affect their patients’ health.  So on a more fundamental level, we are a part of efforts to expand and coordinate how the community supports our residents’ ability to meet their basic needs.  On a human level, we get to meet a lot of interesting people and hear first hand about their lives.