As humanitarian efforts begin for one of the largest natural disasters in Texas history, Lone Star Legal Aid today announces a massive, multi-county free legal outreach initiative for Texans recovering from Hurricane Ike.

In cooperation with the Red Cross, community organizations and city officials, Lone Star Legal Aid will begin mobilizing two-person legal teams to work onsite at local shelters and provide free legal advice on FEMA/other government benefits application help, lost/destroyed document problems, evacuee relocation housing and school enrollment questions and other common disaster recovery legal matters.

The firm will also distribute thousands of free English/Spanish MUST KNOW legal packets with self-help brochures and important recovery benefit deadline information. As Disaster Recovery Centers operated by FEMA are opened, Lone Star Legal Aid teams will manage Attorney Help Desks at those locations.

A toll-free Hurricane Hotline staffed with disaster legal specialists is now in place to provide free legal help as well as referrals to other critical local resources. The Hurricane Hotline phone number is 800-733-8394 or 713-652-0077.

Lone Star Legal Aid’s service area stretches from the Texas-Louisiana state line, all the way down through Matagorda County and up through East Texas. The firm’s free services are available to all low-income residents in Texas counties affected by Hurricane Ike. All of the 29 counties declared to be federal disaster areas are in the Lone Star Legal Aid service area.

“We closed more than 10,000 hurricane cases and provided general legal information to over 50,000 people directly affected by Katrina and Rita,” according to Paul Furrh, Chief Executive Officer of Lone Star Legal Aid. “Our experience tells us there’s a tremendous amount of important information people need early on in the recovery process that they may not find out about until it’s too late, like some of the federal and state aid deadlines with extremely short application windows, including some as short as 30 days from now.

With so many folks sheltering with the Red Cross and starting to relocate to hotels through FEMA, getting this information out is our first challenge. Once the critical legal information is circulated to all the people affected by Ike, we’ll start working on specific individual legal needs. We expect that work to go on for years,” said Furrh.

For People Who Need HelpIf you need legal help, and you do not see a Lone Star Legal Aid teams at your local shelter or Disaster Recovery Center, or you have limited phone access, the firm will be working with city officials and community organizations, including Spanish and Vietnamese service providers, to identify core areas with high populations of residents affected by Ike, so the firm can provide outreach in your area. The firm has offices in the following locations: Angleton, Beaumont (closed and services rerouted through Houston), Bellville, Belton, Bryan, Galveston (closed and services rerouted through Houston), Houston, Longview, Nacogdoches, Paris, Texarkana, Tyler and Waco.

Disaster victims encounter both immediate and long-term legal problems, such as:
 Housing issues
 Denial of insurance claims
 Problems with a landlord or mortgage company
 Price gouging
 Disaster-related unemployment matters
 Disaster-related food stamp issues
 Social Security and Medicaid
 Auto and life insurance claims
 Evacuation and shelter issues
 Assistance with government disaster aid grant applications
 School enrollment for the children of evacuated families
 Home repair scams
 Hurricane-related property rights and tax problems

People are encouraged to contact the firm if they need help with these emergency legal problems as a result of Hurricane Ike. Legal services are free and available for civil matters.

About Us
Lone Star Legal Aid is a non-profit law firm, operating as the fourth largest legal aid organization of its type in the United States. The firm provides free civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families who have immediate needs but cannot afford an attorney.

The firm’s service area covers one-third of the state, including 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and also four counties of southwest Arkansas. The organization is the only full-service civil legal aid provider in the region offering assistance on issues such as spousal and child abuse, access to health care, employment and housing advocacy (including eviction defense), income maintenance, and unlawful trade practices.