Free Legal Help Available For Storm Victims

Jackson County residents who've reached the end of their ropes in hurricane recovery efforts are seeking help in their battles with FEMA and their insurance companies. Now, two legal organizations are joining forces to help.

Katrina left Kenneth Fountain of St. Martin with a hearing challenge. He says now the challenge is getting FEMA to help.

"They promised they would replace the hearing aids that were lost in the storm. And I applied for them in November and here it is June and I'm still waiting on them," Fountain said.

That's why he's now seeking help from professionals who are have experience negotiating around bureaucratic barriers.

"Sometimes it's just helping them out writing the right letter and telling them who to call," volunteer attorney Sloane Strickler said.

Strickler is an attorney for private firm in Washington D.C. He has a very personal reason for volunteering his talents to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"I'm from New Orleans and my father and mother never put in a FEMA application until October."

The committee, formed by the Mississippi Center for Justice in Biloxi, is making the rounds through hurricane stricken areas, to help residents deal with government relief agencies, insurance and mortgage companies and others.

"Lawyers from all over the United States are donating their time to analyze the information that we received and determine whether or not it's a valid case," coordinator Shelinda McGee said.

McGee helped bring this free service to Jackson County. As a Case Manager for International Relief and Development, she sees first hand the struggles Katrina victims go through.

It means the world to storm victims like Jennifer Wright of Bay St. Louis.

"I just need to get here and get a HUD home. I feel pretty helpless with that, but when your here talking one on one with people, I'm very grateful for everything they've done," Wright said.

The Lawyers Committee plans to hold more workshops in the future. For a schedule or legal help, call the Mississippi Center for Justice at 228-435-7284.