Houston, TX – Lone Star Legal Aid has been awarded a $40,000 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation that will support its Eviction Right to Counsel initiative. The concept of the program came to fruition after the pandemic pushed Houston and the rest of America into an eviction crisis. The Eviction Right to Counsel initiative (ER2C) is similar to a public defender’s office. Any applicant who is eligible under LSLA’s guidelines would receive full representation in eviction court. The ER2C’s mission is to provide attorneys who will represent eligible tenants in eviction court rather than merely providing forms or self-help resources.
There has always been a need for an ER2C and the pandemic has exacerbated the need. New York City was among the first to pass an Eviction Right to Counsel Program, and according to an article by Community Service Society of NY, “There is consensus among legal scholars and academics that access to an attorney reduces evictions and increases housing stability. Among the approximately 22,000 New Yorkers represented by OCJ-funded attorneys in FY 2018, 84 percent were able to remain in their homes.” In addition to New York, other cities around the country have Eviction Right to Counsel Projects, and 80-90% of those cases result in favorable outcomes for tenants.
“Harris County is the 3rd largest county in the nation and Houston is the 4th most populous city. We are leading the country in eviction cases and we are struggling with very few life vests. The Eviction Right to Counsel Unit is offering the first life vests of this kind in Texas ever. Since March, only 3.77% of tenants are represented by attorneys in eviction matters in Harris County. Oftentimes, we are representing one client in eviction court where fifty to sixty other tenants are facing eviction on their own. These unrepresented tenants are having their cases move forward to judgment despite available protections simply because they do not have legal representation. We are expecting state and federal protections to expire; but we are hopeful that the Eviction Right to Counsel initiative can help keep tenants housed with increased community participation from the Justices of the Peace and the public.” said Dana Karni, Managing Attorney of LSLA’s Eviction Right to Counsel Unit.
Lone Star Legal Aid is part of the newly formed Eviction Defense Coalition including Houston Volunteer Lawyers, South Texas College of Law, Earl Carl Institute at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and University of Houston Law Center.
Tenants facing eviction can apply for free legal help by calling 1-800-733-8394 or by visiting our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $21 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar foundation.
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 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 well‐being; 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, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.
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