Houston, TX – With funding from Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Houston Endowment, and the Jacob & Terese Hershey Foundation, Lone Star Legal Aid’s Equitable Development Initiative is making headlines with its advocacy. The Equitable Development Initiative’s goal is to provide legal assistance to foster community revitalization in low-income neighborhoods by fighting systemic discrimination and degradation and by helping residents create safe, decent and equitable living spaces. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and government agency rules and regulations are among the advocacy tools EDI uses to fight the inequities in the communities it serves. It is divided into three separate, but interconnected components; community advocacy, environmental justice, and fair housing. “The improvements in the lives of hard-working Houston families that Lone Star Legal Aid has been so effective in fighting for are measurable,” says Paul Furrh, Lone Star’s CEO. “It’s impossible to get ahead when faced with the loss of everything you own year after year. EDI and the Daniel and Beshara law firm look for the root causes of systemic poverty and hold people and institutions accountable. A safer environment and flood-free housing seem like good things to be fighting for in Houston.”

The environmental justice team’s work is in the Houston Chronicle this week for its representation of homeowners facing chronic illnesses they fear are a result of contamination coming from their neighbor, Union Pacific. The team, led by attorney Rodrigo Cantu, hopes to “convince the state to order the company to do more testing of air, soil, and groundwater in the residential area that they say has been severely understudied. ‘The end game is to, in some way, force UP to be a better neighbor than they have been,’ Cantú said.” Hear from area residents and read more about the contamination issues, here.

Hitting national news, the fair housing team is in the New York Times this week for its representation of Arbor Court Apartments residents. In its timely article, NYT highlights the fair housing, environmental justice, and affordable housing crises faced by HUD housing assistance recipients. The team, led by attorney Kimberly Brown Myles, along with Velimir Rasic, Martha Orozco, Ebony Young, Richard Tomlinson, Mark Grandich and co-counsel Mike Daniel and Laura Beshara of Daniel and Beshara, P.C., requests relief in the form of Tenant Protection Vouchers so that the tenants can receive housing choice vouchers which will allow them to find a more habitable residence in a higher opportunity neighborhood. “Michael M. Daniel, a civil rights lawyer whose firm has worked with Lone Star Legal Aid and the affordable-housing group Texas Housers on behalf of the residents. ‘How in the world it hasn’t flunked the ‘decent, safe and sanitary’ test — it’s beyond belief.’” Hear from Arbor Court residents and read more about the case, here.

“April is Fair Housing Month,” says Director of Advocacy, Debra Wray, “so it seems like the right time to celebrate EDI’s groundbreaking work in Houston with Daniel and Beshara, P.C.”

The teams couldn’t do what they do without the help of their paralegals and secretaries. The environmental justice team working the Union Pacific case includes Rebecca Novak, Samantha Salas, and Sal Solis. The fair housing team working the Arbor Court case includes Jennifer Mohawk, Samantha Guzman, Janice Rivera, and Cynthia Hodges.

“I’m really happy to see the EDI team getting some great coverage of their good work for these communities,” says Equitable Development Initiative Project Director, Martha Orozco.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and wellbeing; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, and how to apply for legal services, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.