New Mexico Legal Aid

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New Mexico Legal Aid Moves to Better Serve Santa Fe Community

Photos of the new NMLA office in Santa FeIn a significant milestone for the Santa Fe community, the New Mexico Legal Aid (NMLA) office has relocated to a new, expansive location at 2905 Rodeo Park Dr. E Building 6, Suite 100, Santa Fe, NM 87505. This move marks the culmination of years of planning and challenges aimed at better accommodating the community’s growing needs and the dedicated staff who serve it.

A Journey of Resilience and Adaptation

The story of NMLA’s move is one of resilience and adaptation. In early 2020, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office began facing significant issues at its previous Alameda location. As Deputy Director Michelle Garcia recounted, the space constraints and repair delays were becoming untenable. The transition to remote work during the pandemic only highlighted the need for a more suitable office environment.

From 2020 to 2024, the Santa Fe office grappled with space limitations, particularly as the medical-legal partnership team expanded. Shared workspaces became a temporary fix, but the growing team required a more permanent solution. Flooding after a winter storm and persistent internet outages further underscored the urgency of finding a new home.

By early 2022, NMLA had secured the new location on Rodeo Park Drive. With its 15 spacious rooms, this new office offered a long-term lease and potential for future growth. The relocation process was a massive effort involving meticulous planning and packing, coordinated by a dedicated team led by Doris, Alma, and Ashley.

A New Chapter Begins

The new office, now fully operational, is a testament to NMLA’s commitment to better serve the community. The space is designed to foster a collaborative work environment and improve service delivery to clients. An open house is planned for later this year, allowing the community to explore the new facilities and meet the staff.

Michelle Garcia expressed her gratitude to the Santa Fe team for their perseverance throughout the challenging relocation process. “I have a huge amount of gratitude for everyone who has been working in the Santa Fe office for the last four years while we went through this long relocation process,” she said.

Staff Spotlights: Dedication and Impact

The heart of NMLA lies in its passionate and dedicated staff. Two standout members of the Santa Fe office, Lucy River and Elisabeth Gutierrez, shared their experiences and motivations for working at NMLA.

Lucy River, Medical-Legal Partnership Attorney

Lucy River joined NMLA on February 5, 2024, after a career in plaintiff’s civil litigation. Drawn by the opportunity to improve health outcomes for low-income patients through the Medical-Legal Partnership at Christus St. Vincent, Lucy found a mission she could wholeheartedly support.

One of her most impactful cases involved representing a client whose landlord had failed to provide heat or hot water for nearly two years. The landlord, attempting to evict the client, was ultimately ordered to pay damages and make necessary repairs. Lucy’s work not only helped secure the client’s housing voucher but also provided essential support for his emotional support animals.

“Working with our client on this case has been fulfilling,” Lucy reflected. “When we went to the bench trial, he shook our hands, and it was good to see him looking hopeful after several years of being mistreated.”

Elisabeth Gutierrez, Staff Attorney

Elisabeth Gutierrez began her journey with NMLA in October 2023. With a background in agricultural economics and a passion for land and water issues, Elisabeth’s work is deeply rooted in her respect for these vital resources. Influenced by an internship with the Land Grant Council and private land/water cases, her career path led her to NMLA through the Attorney Governance Program.

Elisabeth’s commitment to building personal connections with clients is evident in her work. One particularly meaningful case involved the Cow Creek water adjudication. Visiting clients’ lands and witnessing the generational stewardship of their resources left a lasting impression.

“Seeing generations of community-built infrastructure and fields farmed by the same families for over 200 years is truly incredible,” she shared. “One of the things I love about this case is how grateful the client is and how inviting they are in allowing us to see their communities and the land and water that is so precious to them.”

Looking Forward

The new office at Rodeo Park Drive represents a new chapter for NMLA in Santa Fe, one filled with promise and potential. As the team settles into their new space, their commitment to providing exceptional legal aid remains steadfast. The move is not just a logistical achievement but a renewed dedication to the community they serve. With a stronger foundation, NMLA is poised to continue making a profound impact on the lives of those in need.

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