Client Stories

NNJLS attorneys handle thousands of cases each year. Here are just a few examples of how our work makes a real and meaningful difference in people's lives. Names and other identifying informations has been changed.


When “Janet” came to Northeast New Jersey Legal Services (NNJLS) for assistance, she was a 24 year-old, single mother of two toddlers who was facing imminent homelessness. She had previously lived in a southern town with the father of her children, but he became abusive. When he was arrested on drug charges, Janet saw her opportunity to flee. She headed to New Jersey, where her mother and brother live, to seek safety and support from her family. Janet’s mother agreed to pay for the move to New Jersey. Her brother agreed that Janet and her children could stay with him while she returned to school, and he offered to assist with the care of her children.


When she arrived in New Jersey, however, Janet discovered that her brother’s landlord would not allow him to house her and her children. Janet’s mother rented a room from a friend, and the friend allowed Janet and her children to stay there on a temporary basis. But the room was too small to accommodate two adults and two children for long, and the friend asked Janet to leave.

Faced with no other options, Janet applied for emergency shelter assistance. The regulations for emergency assistance provide that a person’s application can be denied if they had the ability to plan to prevent their own homelessness but failed to do so. Janet’s emergency assistance application was denied on these grounds—that she caused her own homelessness.


Our NNJLS Staff Attorney appealed the decision on Janet’s behalf. The attorney argued that Janet’s homelessness was not her fault. She proved that Janet was forced to leave her home or be subjected to further abuse, and that she did have a plan of action in place when she left. She also showed that Janet’s abuser, who did not live in New Jersey, continued to try to contact her and that despite the distance Janet remained very afraid of him.


The Administrative Law Judge who heard the case issued a decision immediately overturning the denial and granting Janet emergency assistance. The State Social Services agencies then upheld the Judge’s decision. Janet and her children were placed in a shelter and subsequently found an apartment, where they are safe. Janet is free from domestic violence and can now focus on pursuing an education and raising her two young children.


“David” is a veteran and former first responder who suffered injuries in the aftermath of 9/11. He owned a home in Hudson County and for years was current on his mortgage despite his injuries and lack of employment.


David’s problem with his mortgage began when his daughter was arrested and he used his mortgage money to post her bail. Once he fell behind, the bank refused to accept his mortgage payments.


In addition, as a result of his injuries on 9/11, David is seeking compensation from the 9/11 fund. Incredibly, the matter has dragged on for years with no resolution.


David came to NNJLS when a foreclosure was instituted against him. His case was assigned to an NNJLS attorney, who filed an answer to the foreclosure complaint arguing that, because David’s mortgage was insured by the FHA and the bank had failed to comply with FHA regulations, he had a valid defense to the case.

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The bank’s motion for summary judgment was denied, and the case was scheduled for trial nearly a year later. Because the client’s pending compensation application with the 9/11 Commission may result in a lump-sum payment large enough to pay the arrears on his mortgage, the lender agreed to a settlement: In exchange for withdrawal of the client’s answer, the lender would not apply for a final judgment. The lender took no action for an extended period, so the case was dismissed for lack of prosecution.


David is still waiting for a decision from the 9/11 fund. Hopefully, NNJLS’s assistance will ultimately result in him being able to pay off his mortgage, remain in his home, and get on with his life.


“Tanya” is a 76 year-old U.S. citizen who emigrated from Eastern Europe with her husband and has lived in subsidized housing for many years. Several years ago, her husband deserted her and returned to Europe to reside in an apartment that he inherited from his aunt. Tanya, who is disabled by both physical and emotional ailments, continued to reside in her subsidized apartment in New Jersey.


Despite Tanya’s pleas, the landlord insisted that the husband was still on the lease, and that he would remain a member of the household until he personally came to the landlord’s office and signed a certification removing himself from the lease. And since he was still a member of the household, the landlord demanded that Tanya furnish an appraisal of the apartment abroad—in English—so the landlord could determine whether the “family” had assets exceeding the allowable limit for Tanya’s subsidized apartment.

​When Tanya was unable to obtain either her husband’s return to New Jersey or an appraisal, the landlord revoked her subsidy and filed an eviction based on non-payment of the market rent for the unit.


Aided by her daughter, Tanya sought representation from NNJLS. Her case was assigned to an NNJLS staff attorney. After a series of negotiations, the attorney was able to convince the landlord that the husband’s property did not qualify as a countable asset, and that they should remove the husband from the lease without requiring him to return to New Jersey. Ultimately, after nearly a year of negotiations and court appearances, the eviction case was dismissed. Tanya thankfully remains in the apartment she has called home for many years.