By Erica Drufva
The COVID-19 pandemic left millions of families across the country, including thousands in Cuyahoga County, in a state of financial hardship. With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) moratorium on evictions ending June 30, many fear they will lose their housing this summer.
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (Legal Aid) and United Way of Greater Cleveland are here to help. Together, we are expanding the reach of civil legal aid services to help families across Cuyahoga County avoid eviction by launching Free Eviction Help.org.
Housing is a basic human need – yet when a person is faced with eviction, they do not have a constitutional right to an attorney. The Miranda Rights you hear on television crime shows and movies — “you have the right to an attorney…” only apply to criminal cases. Evictions can have devastating and long-lasting consequences, including homelessness, poor health outcomes, and job loss.
In July of 2020, the City of Cleveland enacted its own Right to Counsel for certain residents facing eviction. Legal Aid and United Way of Greater Cleveland partnered to implement the law and are working to ensure all who qualify have access to free, high-quality legal representation. In the program’s first six months, 93% of tenants represented in Cleveland Housing Court by a Legal Aid attorney avoided an eviction or involuntary move. Right To Counsel Prevented 93% of Cleveland Family Evictions in First Six Months of Program That Provides Low-Income Tenants With Free Legal Assistance – United Way of Greater Cleveland (unitedwaycleveland.org) Legal counsel is a critical and life-changing resource.
After Legal Aid’s success of keeping families housed and connecting tenants with rent assistance to pay their landlords, Cuyahoga County has granted $1 million in federal funding to Legal Aid’s eviction prevention work in the region. This support will specifically help people and families recover from financial distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit www.FreeEvictionHelp.org to learn more about this expanded service and how to apply for help. Crucially, Free Eviction Help does not stop at legal representation; renters can receive information about rental assistance, case management, access to food, and other necessary services.
If you are facing an eviction and need help, contact the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland immediately at 216-861-5835. You can also apply for help through the 2-1-1 chat box/phone number. A lawyer will contact you with information and next steps. If your court date has already passed, you may still be able to get help before the day of your eviction hearing. If your hearing is in Cleveland Housing Court, tell the Court at your hearing that you would like a lawyer assigned to you. If you are in another suburban court, click this link and fill out the appropriate form to present to the court.