The Athlone District Advice Office held an open day at its premises in Gatesville on Saturday 7 September where residents received helpful advice on legal matters.The advice centre has been in existence for more than 20 years and is registered as a non-governmental organisation (NGO). They offer free paralegal services on a daily basis to needy residents. On Saturday they were joined by a number of legal practitioners who offered their services free of charge to the residents who attended, who came from Athlone and nearby areas.According to Brian Alcock, a legal advisor and member of the NGO, the free sessions sought to assist residents in an open, friendly environment. Alcock said they realised many residents have unresolved legal matters and they don’t know how to solve them. While they try and assist everyone, they sometimes refer the more serious cases to other legal institutions. He said cases they deal with include evictions, housing disputes, substance abuse and estate issues.“A lot of landlords are violating the rights of tenants, and the lawyers that are here (at the open day) will give the community members advice on what steps they can take,” he explained.He emphasised tenants need to realise the landlords have rights too. Alcock is convinced their services are much needed across the city. He said it would be great for them to reach as many people as possible. They are unable to increase their capacity though, due to lack of funds. He called upon local business owners to support the NGO so that it can increase its supply of services and assist as many people as possible.One of the legal consultants, Johannes Van Wyngaard said he felt proud to be part of the open day. The West Bank resident said the majority of the residents he counselled do not know their rights.“I also realised that people are ignorant. If they know their rights, they would know how to use it.“I think more of these open days should be held so that we can assist more people,” he said.One resident who made use of the opportunity to obtain legal advice was Virginia Mouton, a resident from Belgravia. Mouton said she has many issues and the open day was a perfect platform for her to unpack them. “I really appreciate this (the open day). I have come here to get help with all the legal problems I have. I will only decide after I have been advised as to what I will do next,” she explained.She expressed the wish that more of these events would be held because she believes most people are being exploited and really need help.V For more information on how you can assist, call the NGO on 021 836 9421.