Budget Cuts Force Closure of Five Legal Aid Centers

Non-profit organization Yedid announces that Citizen Rights Centers in Dimona, Sderot, Ashkelon, Haifa and Kiryat Shmona will be shut down.

Dana Weiler-Polak
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Dana Weiler-Polak

Yedid, a veteran non-profit organization for assisting underprivileged communities, said yesterday five of its Citizen Rights Centers would shut down at the end of the month due to financial difficulties.

The centers - in Dimona, Sderot, Ashkelon, Haifa and Kiryat Shmona - provided legal assistance to more than 8,000 people in 2010.

Yedid operates 21 centers nationwide, providing pro bono legal representation and assistance to tens of thousands of families, mainly in peripheral communities, on issues pertaining to housing, work, health, education and national insurance. Altogether the centers assisted some 30,000 families nationwide last year.

"This move will be another blow to underprivileged people," says Yedid Executive Director Sari Rivkin. "Now our ability to assist them is dwindling and their ability to break out of the poverty cycle is becoming smaller."

Yedid's budget this year is NIS 8 million. The average annual cost of operating an aid center is some NIS 200,000. The money Yedid received from the absorption, industry, trade and employment ministries this year was NIS 361,000, compared to NIS 523,000 in 2010. Last year Yedid received an additional NIS 1 million from the Social Affairs Ministry's fund to bail out NGO's. Altogether Yedid's income plunged from NIS 2.63 million in 2010 to NIS 2.21 million in 2011.

"Our aid is not philanthropy, but rather a significant social investment through the narrowing of gaps," says Yedid CEO Ran Melamed. "A person who has to pay NIS 30-50 to travel to another city for legal or other aid will think twice whether to go and give up food and medicine for his family, or give up a chance for a better future."

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