Talk Justice, an LSC Podcast: Tools to Empower Disaster Survivors and At-Risk Communities

Carl Rauscher          
Director of Communications and Media Relations    

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WASHINGTON– Experts discuss resources for disaster preparedness and recovery on the latest episodeof LSC's “Talk Justice” podcast, released today. LSC President Ron Flagg hosts the conversation with guests Stepanie Hudson, executive director of Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, Shirley Peng, managing attorney at Legal Aid of Nebraska, David Bonebrake, deputy director in the Office of Program Performance at LSC, and Helena Cawley, general counsel and head of business development at First Street Foundation. 

Last year, LSC launched The website is designed to empower residents across ten states in America's heartland that have faced significant flooding, windstorms, extreme heat and wildfires over the past decade. While the resources focus on Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota, much of the website’s content applies nationwide. 

“It's a real game changer in terms of their ability to get information about the types of disasters that they face and how they can better prepare themselves and protect themselves,” says Bonebrake. “[When a] user goes to the main page, they enter their address or another address in their community and they get very easy to understand, quantifiable, hopefully actionable information about the disaster risks to their individual property.” 

The address-specific risk assessment ability on the site is powered by First Street Foundation’s Risk Factor tool. Cawley says that the foundation built this platform to make climate risk information accessible to the public. 

“[Risk Factor] is a way for any individual or any business or government agency to type in an address and understand what is the risk to that particular property from a variety of different climate-related perils over a 30-year timeframe,” says Cawley. “[You can see] what is a local hot day in your neighborhood today and what is that going to look like 30 years from now as the climate continues to change and extreme weather events continue to increase.”

In the heartland region, Cawley says that First Street Foundation has identified trends that suggest increases in floods and extreme heat will be major problems for these states. 

In addition to helping users assess their disaster risk, also offers a directory of local organizations that disaster survivors and those at-risk can turn to, including legal aid offices. Civil legal services are a critical component of a comprehensive approach to disaster recovery and preparedness. 

Peng explains that she and her colleagues provide a wide array of legal services to people impacted by natural disasters in Nebraska. These services often have to do with insurance claims, filing appeals, scams and fraud, applying for government benefits, landlord/tenant issues, recovering lost or damaged legal documents, and responding to overpayment or recoupment notices. 

“Legal Aid of Nebraska was one of the first disaster relief projects that incorporates legal issues into the disaster framework that already exists in each state,” says Peng. “So right now, we're also mentoring other legal aid programs to establish their own disaster relief projects so that other states are prepared to respond to legal needs.” 

At Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, Hudson explains much of their disaster-related legal services focus on probate and title transfers. Many tribe members live in homes that are on land that a deceased family member held the title to and it prevents them from undertaking repairs after disasters. 

“We're seeing more and more tribal members whose tribal homes are being damaged by floods, cracked water pipes and severe cold, roof damage with large hail, roof damage and window damage with severe winds that are more powerful than we've experienced in prior years and they're living in a home that needs repairs, but they don't have title to the home,” Hudson says. 

She says another major issue they face in helping tribal members is that many people prefer self-help and are reluctant to reach out for services. Hudson sees HeartlandDisasterHelp.orgas a great resource for people interested in self-help and things they can do on their own to be better prepared for disasters. 

Talk Justice episodes are available online and on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple and other popular podcast apps. The podcast is sponsored by LSC’s Leaders Council. The next episode of the podcast will feature a conversation on the legal tech justice gap with legal tech experts Cat Moon and Bob Ambrogi.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974. For 50 years, LSC has provided financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 131 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.