‘Earlier than we got here right here, there was nobody to struggle on behalf of low-income residents’: Guelph’s The Authorized Clinic celebrates 20th anniversary

Jennifer Bough and Anthea Millikin get ready to serve lunch in celebration of the Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County’s 20th anniversary, Sept. 23, 2022.

The Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County celebrated their 20th anniversary by sharing food with the community on the corner of Wyndham Street North and Woolwich Street on Sept. 23.

The clinic is located inside the Guelph Community Health Center (GCHC), and staff set up outdoor tables filled with drinks, hot dogs and buns, cake and more to provide lunch to people in need, or those who were just passing by, from noon to 2 pm They even had a popcorn maker in action, which filled the streets with an enticing smell.

“It has been important to us over the years to serve food to celebrate with our community. We did that on our 10th anniversary, we did that on our 15th, and now we are doing it again on our 20th,” said Anthea Millikin, executive director.

The poverty law clinic serves low-income community members with income and housing issues, so they know the community well and understand there is a growing need for food, as well as other supports.

Millikin said the time she has spent at the clinic has been “valuable” and “important.”

“Before we came here, there was no one to fight on behalf of low-income residents when they were dealing with housing and income issues, so what we’ve heard from the community is that they are really happy that we’re here. They are really happy there is someone on their side and someone who can advocate and someone who can fight,” said Millikin.

They shared they have gone to the tribunal and saved people’s housing, they have given a great deal of advice to tenants, and the have secured disability benefits for hundreds of people in the Guelph community.

“We use our legal skills to help people who otherwise may feel powerless in the face of decisions that have deep and terrible effects,” said Millikin.

It is very important to the clinic staff that they are accessible to the community who needs them, and in the GCHC, they have the unique benefit of being in a place where people seek other services and can be easily referred.

“Our whole approach has been to be where people are,” said Millikin.

The Legal Clinic also runs the Law Van to provide services to rural communities, which travels to places in Wellington County and Halton Region.

Millikin said they were one of the last legal clinics to be established in Ontario through Legal Aid Ontario and are governed by a community board of directors. They only have a team of six people, including two lawyers, two paralegals, an outreach worker and reception worker.

“We always call it ‘the Little Engine that Could,’ because it’s so mighty and it leaves such a huge impact on our community,” said board member Estera Lawrance, who has served on the board for almost 10 years.

Lawrance said needs are evolving in the community, and she is glad through programs like the Law Van that the clinic can reach more people.

“I just really believe in what they do,” Lawrance said. “They meet people where they’re at.” And she explained, for her, it makes a lot of sense to give back to an organization that does so much.

For more information about the clinic and Law Van schedule, visit gwlegalclinic.ca.

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