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Seniors, here's a chance to get free legal help

No one is coming out to get free advice from lawyers anymore _ literally.

"This last set-up we had, we had an attorney there for four hours and no one came out," said Jean Looney, senior advocacy lawyer with Bay Area Legal Services. "This program has been in place since 1991 and this was the only time no one has showed up."

The volunteer program is called Helping the Elderly with Legal Problems, or HELP, and gives any Pasco resident over the age of 60 a chance to sit down with a lawyer and get free legal advice on subjects from consumer advocacy to living wills.

"It's simply a matter of trying to analyze their problem . . . and to direct them (to the right solution)," said Looney, whose office in New Port Richey coordinates the program. "To kind of relieve their minds and put them at ease."

The HELP program usually is so popular that people sign up for weeks in advance to get one of the six 30-minute slots in each three-hour session. "It was the first time we noticed that there was a decline," Looney said. "I think probably it was just that it was not advertised."

To set up an appointment for a HELP program, call the Claude Pepper Senior Center on Van Buren Street in New Port Richey at (813) 844-3077 or the Community Aging & Retirement Services (CARES) Center on Rottingham Road in Port Richey at (813) 862-9291. For information, call Bay Area Legal Services at (813) 847-5494.