FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Houston, TX – Lone Star Legal Aid is excited to announce it has received a charitable donation from Powered By People on behalf of the Eviction Defense Coalition. Powered By People is a grassroots organization led by former congressman, Beto O’Rourke, that has set forth to mobilize volunteers and raise money to support Texas families.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has severed people’s incomes leaving them unable to pay their rent, many relying upon the Center for Disease Control’s order preventing eviction, to avoid homelessness.

After learning about the eviction crisis in the Harris County courthouses through a news piece published by Houston Public Media, Powered By People reached out to Lone Star Legal Aid with an offer to support the Eviction Defense Coalition with a generous contribution. The grant made by Powered By People will help families facing housing emergencies, whether that be in rental assistance, eviction prevention, temporary housing, or home repairs.

The Eviction Right to Counsel Project (ER2C) is like a public defender’s office. Any applicant who is eligible under legal services guidelines would receive full representation in those eviction courts that participate in the program. The ER2C’s mission is to provide an attorney to every tenant, who will represent them in eviction court, rather than merely providing forms or self-help resources. Another goal is to provide representation to undocumented tenants.

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 the 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 a favorable outcome for the tenant. The Coalition’s long term goal is to positively impact tenants’ lives in Harris County and the City of Houston.

“Over 32,000 eviction cases were filed in Harris County courts in 2020, according to analytics firm January Advisors. It goes without saying that people who cannot afford to pay their rent typically can also not afford to hire an attorney. Only about 3% of renters are represented by an attorney in Harris County courts. At a time when tenants have so few protections, the Eviction Defense Coalition is dedicated to offering every eligible tenant with full legal representation in our service area,” says Dana Karni, Managing Attorney of Lone Star Legal Aid’s Eviction Right to Counsel Project.

The Houston Eviction Defense Coalition comprises Lone Star Legal Aid, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, South Texas College of Law, Thurgood Marshall School of Law’s Earl Carl Institute, and the University of Houston Law Center.

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.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org