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Q: What is East River Legal Services?

A: East River Legal Services (ERLS) is a private, non-profit law firm committed to providing quality civil legal aid to the low-income community in Eastern South Dakota.  Civil legal aid helps ensure fairness and equity for all in the justice system, regardless of income.  ERLS provides legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.  Civil legal aid is a combination of services and resources that helps Americans of all backgrounds including those who face the toughest legal challenges: children, veterans, seniors, ill or disabled people, and victims of domestic violence.

Q: Is there any charge for ERLS' services?

A: There is no cost for any of the legal services provided by ERLS; However, in some instance there are court costs or other fees the client may be required to pay.

Q: How can I contact ERLS?

A: You can contact us via telephone at (605) 336-9230 or (800) 952-3015. Phones are answered Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Q: What is the eligibility criteria?

A: Eligibility for ERLS is different depending on the type of services requested.  There are several factors we examine when determining eligibility.  Please note, we can often make exceptions to these rules, so be sure to call for an official eligibility screening, even if you have doubts about qualifying. The main eligibility criteria is as follows:

Income:  ERLS can only accept clients with a household income within 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.  In some cases, we can accept clients with a household income within 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.  Income is calculated based upon the gross income household earnings of the applicant, and the number of persons in the household. Non-exempt assets may also be considered in qualifying applicants for our services. Income must be proven prior to case acceptance.  Some of our program services are not income sensitive; these include Seniors and Veterans.

Area of Residence:  To qualify for services at ERLS you must be a resident of one of the following South Dakota counties: Minnehaha, Lincoln, Brown, Brookings, Codington, Yankton, Davison, Beadle, Union, Clay, Lake, Turner, Hutchinson, Bon Homme, Moody, Spink, Hamlin, McCook, Day, Kingsbury, Marshall, Deuel, Edmunds, Clark, Hanson, Hand, Douglas, Aurora, McPherson, Sanborn, Faulk, Miner, and Jerauld.

Citizenship/Immigration Status:  Clients must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Legal Resident (with some limited exceptions).  Permanent Legal Residents must show official residence card at the time of an appointment. Services Disclaimer

ERLS’ ability to provide legal assistance is subject to change based on the availability of staff and volunteers. While an applicant may be financially eligible for our services, ERLS reserves the right to deny or limit services based on program resources and program priorities.

Q: What type of services do you offer?

A: ERLS assists people with civil legal problems only, and does not provide assistance with criminal matters. A criminal case is where the state has charged someone with a crime. A civil case is a dispute between you and someone else. ERLS provides the following services in civil cases:

  • Advocacy
  • Legal counseling
  • Self-help services (clinics/workshops/informational forms)
  • In-depth legal representation
  • Community education
Q: What kind of cases does ERLS handle?

A: ERLS case priorities include support for the family; preserving housing; maintaining economic stability; safety, stability, and health; and populations with special vulnerabilities.  ERLS provides services to low-income residents with legal issues in the following areas of law:

  • Domestic violence victims
  • Elder Law
  • Housing
  • Public Entitlements (i.e. Medicaid, Food Stamps, TANF, WIC)
  • Social Security/SSI Disability
  • Veterans

We do not guarantee acceptance of any case.  These case types also do not preclude acceptance of cases outside of these parameters.   Cases we do not assist with include:  criminal, business, or immigration.

Q: I am a Senior Citizen. Is there special help for me?

A: Yes.  Senior Citizens ages 60 and over may qualify for assistance through the ERLS Older Americans Program.  Normal income and asset guidelines are waived for seniors in our service area meeting ERLS’ other eligibility criteria.

Q: I am a Veteran. Is there special help for me?

A: Yes.  Former members of our armed forces may qualify for assistance through the ERLS Veterans Assistance Program.  Normal income and asset guidelines are waived for Veterans in our service area meeting ERLS’ other eligibility criteria.

Q: Can I make an appointment for the same day?

A: No.  Due to limited resources, we typically do not take same-day appointments.  Emergencies may be permissible in rare circumstances.

Q: Do you take walk-in appointments?

A: No.  All those seeking services must call our Intake Hotline for a complete eligibility screening.  On the Hotline, cases are evaluated and initial legal advice is given to eligible callers.  After your initial screening, program attorneys will decide whether the case should be scheduled for an appointment for possible further services or referred to another agency.

Q: How can I help make a difference?

A: You can help us make a difference by volunteering, making a donation, or becoming a partner.  Click here to learn more.