They often live in the shadows: the battered women in need of restraining orders to keep their abusers at bay, the low-income families evicted from their apartments or turned away from emergency housing, the immigrant children seeking asylum as they flee the drug violence in their home countries.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of New Jersey’s poorest residents run into legal problems that threaten to derail their lives, but only one in six will get a lawyer to fight for them, according to Legal Services of New Jersey, a network of nonprofit organizations that provides free legal assistance for the poor in civil cases such as fighting evictions or securing restraining orders.
Advocates say the requests have been piling up like never before since 2008 because of rising poverty in New Jersey. And in each of the past four years, there have been fewer lawyers available to lend a hand, mostly because of deep budget cuts at the state and federal levels.
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