Monday, March 10, 2003

Partnership improves
access to legal support

Technology extends aid
to areas far from
the Honolulu hub

By Debra Barayuga

Legal Aid Society of Hawaii has teamed up with five nonprofit organizations to provide community access to social and legal services on Oahu with the use of videoconferencing and Web-based technology.

Ku'ikahi Enehana: A Partnership in Technology is expected to be unveiled at a news conference today, but the videoconferencing equipment has been in place at 15 sites statewide since late January.

Partnering with Legal Aid are the Honolulu Community Action Program, Learning Disabilities Association of Hawaii, the Salvation Army, Small Business Development Center and the University of Hawaii Rural Development Project.

With videoconferencing, people in Leeward, Windward and Central Oahu can easily obtain legal and other social services within the communities in which they live, rather than driving or catching the bus to downtown Honolulu where most of these services are offered, said Scott Morishige, a legal advocate with the Legal Aid Society.

Similar community partnerships have been created for people who live in isolated Hana, Maui.

When people seek help at one of the Legal Aid offices or its partner offices, an intake person will sit down with them to determine the full scope of their needs before developing a case plan and referring them to participating agencies.

For clients it means obtaining services quickly and more efficiently.

"It's a more in-depth and holistic approach to solving problems," Morishige said.

For the agencies, they can communicate more effectively with each other about the services they provide, and intake workers can meet regularly to discuss the needs of their clients and work closer together for the client's interests.

Legal Aid received a grant from the Legal Services Corp. and the Hawaii Women Legal Foundation to install the videoconferencing equipment.

Legal Aid is also working with computer labs run by the state or U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to train staff in helping people access the Legal Aid Web site at

The new Web site offers instant access to legal information on issues such as divorce, eviction, debt collection or bankruptcy.

Also available are self-help brochures, videos and a database of legal and social-service providers that serve specific populations, such as seniors or native Hawaiians.

Chuck Demarest, 64, who lives on a fixed income and sought help from Legal Aid's Honolulu office over a dispute with his former landlord, said he is hopeful they will help him find a new place to live.

"They make you feel like they want you and they want to help you, and looks like they're willing to bend over backwards to do that," Demarest said.


Available help

How to reach Ku'ikahi Enehana partners:

>> Legal Aid Society of Hawaii: 536-4302

>> Honolulu Community Action Program: Central District, 488-6834; Waianae District, 696-4261

>> Learning Disabilities Association of Hawaii: 536-9684

>> Salvation Army Family Services Line: 845-2544; Salvation Army Family Treatment Services, 732-2802

>> Small Business Development Center: 522-8131

>> Maui Community College Rural Development Project: 984-3300

E-mail to City Desk


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