United Way, Legal Aid launch Right to Counsel program to prevent renters from eviction sees success

United Way, Legal Aid launch Right to Counsel program to prevent renters from eviction, sees success
Posted at 10:06 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 10:06:15-05

CLEVELAND — Six months ago the United Way of Greater Cleveland teamed up with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and developed a program to keep renters in their homes avoiding eviction.

The United Way said the program was badly needed because in Cuyahoga County there are 76,000 households at risk of eviction without programs like the Right-to-Counsel and an extension on eviction moratoriums.

In just six months, the Right-To-Counsel program has represented 323 households and helped keep 133 children in their homes.

Andrew Katusin is the Director of Basic Needs with the United Way. He said the while the vaccine rollout is giving people hope and providing a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, it does not mean economic factors are going to disappear.

"There's still going to be this balloon payment of rent for folks that comes due at the end of the moratorium," he said. "If you haven't been working because you've been laid off or your hours have been cut, a vaccine doesn't fix that piece of this."

Hazel Remesch is a supervising attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. She said 93% of the clients they represented, along with the United Way, avoided eviction or displacement in the first month of the program's launch.

"We've seen how critical it is in the middle of a pandemic and how important it is for people to be able to stay housed as we're facing stay-at-home orders or a spike in numbers or people are ill and losing their income," she said.

Heather Malone and her son were just one of the many families who received help. She was served an eviction notice by her landlord last fall just two weeks after she moved in. "I just had gave him like full month rent and deposit which was $1,500," Malone said.

Malone said she turned to the program and it changed her life.

"The Legal Aid people helped me out so much, if it wasn't for them honestly I'm not sure what we would have done."

Her advice to others who may be struggling with rent payments or possible eviction: "Do not just lay down and let a landlord basically, straight take over you because, you know, a lot of us don't know our rights."

The Right-to-Counsel program has two eligibility requirements:

  • Must be at or below 100% of the federal poverty rate
  • Must have children living in the home

If you would like to see more resources on how to make ends meet, click here to go to our Rebound section.