Ilena was in over her head with debts that she could not pay. She set up payment plans with some creditors, but the amounts she could pay would never settle the bills. Bill collectors were often mean and relentless in their efforts to collect, even though she explained that she was disabled and supporting both herself and her son solely with her disability payments. Last winter, she realized that she needed to pay for heat and decided to defer her car payment. When she called the dealership, the man on the phone informed her that he would take her car from her—and he did, that very night. Ilena struggled for several more months before she got the courage to call legal aid. She met with a pro bono attorney who helped her file for bankruptcy. Ilena said a weight has been lifted from her shoulders, and she can now support herself and her son with her disability check.

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