A partnership between Goodwill Manasota and Gulfcoast Legal Services will bring free legal clinics to North Port for low-income South County residents.
Staff Attorney James Clegg began at Gulfcoast in 2018, the same year that the nonprofit partnered with Goodwill Manasota to offer legal clinics at one of Goodwill’s Bradenton stores. As a housing attorney, Clegg is able to provide counsel to those facing eviction.
“I will always talk to anybody that comes in,” Clegg said. “[But] I focus primarily on housing…and evictions are such a big problem right now.”
The expansion from Bradenton to North Port was four years in the making. After a pause in the clinics due to the pandemic, Clegg noticed that North Port residents often made an hour trek to Bradenton for legal advice.
“I was like, ‘You have a North Port location, let’s just do something down there,’” Clegg said. “And it finally got to the point where we were able to start doing it.”
In addition to housing advice, Gulfcoast Legal Services offers counsel on credit debt, immigration services and family law.
Deshane Collins, a Good Partner Coach at the North Port Goodwill location, located at 14879 Tamiami Trail, is encouraged by the new clinics, which began last week and will take place the third Thursday of every month, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“What I’m most impressed about the program is that it allowed our team members, who probably would avoid legal services or legal counsel, to be able to have someone here that they can come to, and engage and speak to, at no charge,” Collins said.
In Collins’ eyes, the program is especially needed in the context of the nationwide eviction crisis. Rent has dramatically risen in Sarasota and Manatee counties, which creates major roadblocks for low-income earners.
“No matter where you go, I mean, rent for a one-bedroom, one-bath is $1,100, $1,300, where we have team members trying to support a family working at $12.50,” Collins said.
For appointments at the North Port location, call Deshane at 941-355-2721, ext. 515. For appointments at the Bradenton location, call Margo at 941-355-2721, ext. 190. Walk-ins are allowed, but appointments are strongly recommended.