Are legal services a basic human need?

John C. Trimble

As we approach the end of 2020, many of us are contemplating our personal and business charitable contributions. The ravages of the pandemic have left many with no paycheck, no home and living in a state of hopelessness. Imagine what it has been like for people who were already in chronic need before COVID arrived. There has rarely been a time when the need for public generosity has been as great as it is this year.

Indianapolis and the state of Indiana are blessed with a number of free legal service providers available to provide assistance for those who need our help. Locally we have the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society, Indiana Legal Services Inc., Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and others who offer services in Marion County and throughout the state. If you ask the leadership of any of these groups, we will tell you that the phones have been ringing nonstop this year and that demand for legal assistance is overwhelming. The need for financial assistance this year is greater than ever.

So why, you ask, did I raise the question about whether legal services are a “basic human need”? The short answer is that many of the agencies and foundations that provide grants to not-for-profits prefer to support entities that serve “basic needs.” Unfortunately, legal services are frequently not considered to be a “basic need.”

Anyone involved with a legal aid provider will tell you that our services could not be more “basic” or more relatable to “human need.” I would like to offer some examples (and these are just the tip of the iceberg).

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