Royal OakApril 16, 2014
Legal Aid Clinic helps families and hosts day of fun at zoo
By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — On May 31, the Detroit Zoo will host hundreds of visitors who want to have a little fun and help their friends and neighbors in need by supporting the William Booth Legal Aid Clinic in Detroit.
Every day at the clinic, which is a service of The Salvation Army, three attorneys will service low-income or disadvantaged clients to help them get the help they need to overcome legal consequences of substance abuse and addiction, escape domestic violence situations, gain custody of their children, repair credit and debt issues, and more. The goal of the clinic for 20 years has been to make sure no one ever has to feel like they’re alone in this world — that their voice doesn’t matter.
That’s what Detroiter Cameron Crosby was facing when he petitioned the courts six years ago to get custody of his baby daughter. His daughter was living with her mother’s legal guardian, and Crosby just wanted to get some time with her. He said he had filed some paperwork with Friend of the Court, and then — nothing.
“I was ignored. I wasn’t in a really stable job, and I was staying with someone else at that point,” said Crosby. “My voice wasn’t really heard, and (the court) basically said to me, ‘Yeah, yeah. Mr. Crosby, this is going to be a long, uphill battle.”
He knew he needed help, but he didn’t have much money. Just paying the $7 parking fee at the courthouse put a strain on his finances, he said. He would show up at a hearing only to be told it was postponed or that he would have no luck as a man fighting for custody.
When he learned about the legal aid clinic, he said, he finally found the hope he needed to finish his journey to get his daughter back.
“I’d say it lasted about 2 1/2 years, and she’s been in my custody since, which is awesome,” said Crosby. “It’s been a hell of a ride, with disappointments and tons of hurdles. But with (Legal Aid’s) help, it was a totally different experience. You’re not standing there by yourself. You have someone in your corner. That’s the most important part: they empowered me to get it done.”
Crosby is not the only one. According to the clinic’s director, Amy Roemer, the staff services around 2,000 people each year. The William Booth Legal Aid Clinic is the only one of its kind associated with the internationally known Salvation Army, and since it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary, they’re hoping to expand to help even more people.
“We’re very excited. This is our second Walk for Justice, and last year, we were just shy of 300 people,” said Roemer. “People who come to us at the clinic are usually at the worst point in their life, and they have nowhere to turn. Aside from the time and knowledge, we give them hope. That’s sort of invaluable, to feel like they actually have a chance.”
The fundraising event will begin bright and early at 8 a.m., with lots of things to do for the whole family. There will be face painting and a magician for the kids, a photo booth, and a yoga instructor giving lessons on the grass while others make the trek around the zoo to see the animals. There will also be a silent auction with lots of great items to bid on.
The Walk for Justice is a perfect excuse to get the family out of the house for a little bit of fun to support a very worthy cause, organizers say.
“We’re hoping for even better success this year,” said Roemer. “We feel good about knowing we’re making a difference in people’s lives, because it extends well beyond our clients. These issues affect their families and their kids, too.”
Admission to the second annual Walk for Justice is $35 for adults, $20 for law students and free for kids. The cost includes entry to the zoo, parking, a T-shirt, refreshments and a door prize for every participant. For more information, visit www.WalkforJustice.org or call (313) 361-6340.
The William Booth Legal Aid Clinic is located inside The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, 3737 Lawton in Detroit.