Suffolk Law Library Conducts Workshop

Heather Buchanan, JoAnn Featherston, Clarissa McAdoo & Phyllis Harrison

Workshops empower residents with resources
By Tracy Agnew (Contact) Suffolk News-Herald
Published Saturday, February 21, 2009
On Friday, people from around Suffolk gathered at the Redevelopment and Housing Authority for empowerment.
The monthly empowerment workshop, hosted by SRHA, brings in representatives of community resources to speak to attendees about various topics. This month, attendees learned about one of Suffolk’s most unique community resources – the Suffolk Law Library.
Suffolk’s is the only independent law library left in Virginia. In addition to providing a resource for attorneys and Suffolk residents to research legal matters, the law library provides resources far above and beyond its job description, said Heather Buchanan, one of the staffers at the library. The library offers free copies, Internet access, and help with preparing job applications, filing for divorce, obtaining court documents, and a number of other needed services, Buchanan said.
Speaking to a crowd of about 25 Suffolk residents at SRHA Friday, Buchanan answered questions about the library’s services and provided advice on avoiding scams, dealing with landlords, and protecting assets like money and cars.
Buchanan’s best advice?
“Put everything in writing, even the little things,” Buchanan said. “These little things are what knocks everybody down.”
Buchanan advised getting bills of sale or receipts even for seemingly harmless sales to another person. Such a document, even if simply scribbled on a scrap of paper, could protect the buyer when the seller later tries to say it was stolen, Buchanan said.
She also told the workshop attendees to work out written agreements for shared living space, even if sharing with relatives; read their leases carefully and make multiple copies in case they lose them; and to check their free credit report online every year. If anybody didn’t have Internet access, Buchanan invited them to the law library to use theirs.
Buchanan also brought copies of forms the law library provides on a regular basis, such as Freedom of Information Act requests, wills, shared living space agreements, forms to get utility services turned back on, and more.
This is the fourth year Buchanan has done the workshop at SRHA, she said. It’s an important resource for people in the city who sometimes get taken advantage of so badly.
She related one story from last year’s workshop, about a woman who didn’t think she would be able to get power turned on in her name because of her poor credit. Her landlord, seemingly sympathetic, offered to have the power turned on in his name – for an extra $250 per month on the rent check.
“This was a studio apartment,” Buchanan said. “I called Dominion for the average usage at that address. It was only $90.”
That was just one example Buchanan gave throughout the day about people who had been scammed. She also warned the attendees not to respond to e-mails, phone calls or letters explaining multiple steps – usually involving wiring money or giving out bank account numbers – required to claim a prize.
The empowerment workshop is held monthly on the fourth Friday at SRHA. Topics range from stress and money management to health and exercise. For more information, call 539-5184.

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