Group to provide free legal counsel to Oakland County veterans

Southfield Human Services offers other services for struggling residents

C&G Newspapers | Published April 17, 2024

 Rhonda Terry has worked as an outreach caseworker for Southfield Human Services for almost 28 years. Her favorite part of the job is getting to help others every day.

Rhonda Terry has worked as an outreach caseworker for Southfield Human Services for almost 28 years. Her favorite part of the job is getting to help others every day.

Photo provided by Rhonda Terry


SOUTHFIELD — The Southfield Human Services Department has joined forces with the Legal Aid and Defender Association to provide free legal services for veterans 9 a.m.-noon every second Monday of the month until September, as well as on Dec. 9, at the Southfield Human Services Department, 26000 Evergreen Road.

The Legal Aid and Defender Association is a nonprofit organization founded in 1909 and is the state’s oldest provider of free civil legal assistance, serving low-income residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties who can’t afford an attorney.

Rasheed Gilmer, a staff attorney at the association, reached out to Southfield Human Services after securing a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Gilmer explained that the Veterans Affairs grant is congressionally mandated for veterans at risk of homelessness, to ensure that they are provided legal services. The grant is on a year-to-year basis, and currently, Legal Aid is in the process of applying for a renewal.

“I go to different veteran events and interact with different veterans,” Gilmer said. “The goal is to represent or at least advise veterans who are at risk of homelessness or who are homeless. For example, at the Michigan Veterans Foundation, on Grand River in Detroit, a homeless shelter for veterans, the veterans who live there usually come by my office for advice on issues such as child support, arrears, divorce, some probate issues, landlord-tenant and various civil issues that I can advise veterans and possibly represent them in court to protect them from further risk of homelessness.”

Gilmer explained that Legal Aid can help with legal matters such as:

• Homelessness prevention for eviction, repairs, mortgage, tax foreclosure, etc.

• Consumer matters, including debt collection, garnishments, bankruptcy, etc.

•  Family Law, including divorce, child support, persona; protection orders, etc.

•  Public benefits, such as food assistance/food stamps.

•  Employment/unemployment law matters.

•  Criminal record expungement and license restoration.

•  Estate planning, powers of attorney and patient advocate designations.

He added that this is not a comprehensive list, and he encouraged veterans facing other legal issues not listed to discuss them with him.

Rhonda Terry, an outreach caseworker for Southfield Human Services, explained that a similar program was held around four years ago for veterans, but the turnout wasn’t big enough to keep it going.

Terry added that in addition to launching this new partnership, for the last few years, Southfield Human Services has worked with Lakeshore Legal Aid to host free legal clinics for low-income residents and senior citizens on select first Fridays of each month. Lakeshore Legal Aid is a nonprofit law firm that serves low-income residents and seniors in Oakland, Wayne, Macomb or St. Clair counties who are not currently represented by another attorney on the legal issue of concern. Residents interested in speaking with someone from Lakeshore must arrive between 9 and 10 a.m. on the first Friday of the month at Southfield Human Services, 26000 Evergreen Road, to register for a spot to speak with an attorney.

“If you go to talk to an attorney for a consultation, it could (otherwise) be hundreds of dollars,”  Terry said. “And sometimes they just have a simple question. But sometimes they have paperwork that they need drawn up, and Lakeshore would do that and do a follow-up, and it’s all a free service.”

In addition to the free legal clinics, Southfield Human Services also offers referrals, consultations and financial assistance for Southfield residents who are experiencing financial hardships.

Terry has been at her job for almost 28 years.

“I truly do love my job. I get paid to come to work and help people all day long. That’s all I do.

“If a resident comes in and they have a court-ordered eviction or the lights are going to be turned off, they have to have an application they can fill out, and then if they get approved, they can get up to $300 one-time help. The $300 can be used for lights or gas or to stop an eviction,” Terry explained. “Usually, I’m that last $300 that saves people from being evicted or having their lights or gas turned off.”

She added that every person has a different reason for needing assistance, such as their car breaking down, having an adult child or elderly parent move in, or paying for a prescription medicine because they’re sick or their parents are sick.

“It could be anybody,” Terry said. “I always treat people like I want to be treated. I always tell people this is a nonjudgmental zone, because I work every day like you do and I get a paycheck just like you do.”

For more information on Southfield Human Services, contact Rhonda Terry at (248) 796-4540.

For more information on Legal Aid and Defender Association, visit