Legal Aid of Nebraska suffered a devastating fire yesterday morning in its Lincoln office on the 8th floor of the Terminal Building at 10th and O Streets. The fire caused considerable fire, smoke, and water damage, and staff are currently evaluating its extent. It is not expected, however, that Legal Aid will be able to work out of this space for a significant period of time.
Legal Aid’s staff and leadership are grateful the building was empty at the time of the fire, and offer their appreciation to Lincoln’s firefighters and support to the firefighter who was injured in fighting the blaze.
Legal Aid has a history of over 35 years at the Terminal Building location, serving thousands of low-income Lincoln residents. With over a dozen attorneys and other legal and support staff, Legal Aid in Lincoln provides free high quality civil legal services to low-income children, families, and individuals facing family, housing, income/benefits, and debt problems. The Lincoln office includes an “Access to Justice (A2J) Center,” where hundreds of low-income individuals each year receive direct assistance on how to help themselves with common legal issues including simple divorces, evictions, and debtor protections. The Lincoln office is also home to the Juvenile Justice Project, which serves over 600 low-income children and families as clients in Lancaster County courts, and other Legal Aid statewide initiatives, such as the Farm and Ranch Program, Disaster Relief Project, and the Ag Worker Rights Program.
“We know this fire will directly affect our low-income clients, and our primary attention is on how we can best serve them over the next days and weeks,” said Pat Carraher, Managing Attorney in the Lincoln office. “Getting a temporary space arranged and making contacts with our clients is our highest priority. Fortunately, Legal Aid is very tech-savvy and cloud-based, but there will be many delays and complications ahead, including easily accessing client information and court preparation.”
“Legal Aid has some of the best legal staff in the state, especially here in Lincoln, and I know we’ll get through this disaster with great tenacity,” said Milo Mumgaard, Executive Director of Legal Aid. “Every day, we see our clients struggle through some of the toughest challenges imaginable. Here at Legal Aid, we know we will get our services back up in great shape very quickly after this fire, because we know how badly needed they are. We want to thank all of our friends and supporters who have reached out to us with offers of help.”
Legal Aid had announced in January that it was renovating its present full-floor Terminal Building space into a state-of-the-art A2J Center, with more room for clients, volunteers, and pro bono counsel, along with improved office space for its expanding professional and legal staff, to meet the growing demand for its services. Renovations, though, had not yet begun.
Announcements about new temporary space and client services will be made within a couple days. Existing clients and other individuals in need of legal assistance can find out more at Legal Aid’s website, www.legalaidofnebraska.org, or through the Legal Aid AccessLine, 1-877-250-2016.