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Six Months In, Cleveland's 'Right To Counsel' Is Fighting Evictions During The Pandemic

Millions of Americans were facing eviction before COVID-19 upended everything, but the pandemic has only made the housing crisis worse, with many bracing for a so-called, "eviction tsunami" once federal emergency rental assistance depletes and the federal eviction moritorium ends on March 31st.

It was supposed to expire at the end of January, but was extended by President Joe Biden. Experts predict between 30 and 40 million americans are at risk of losing their homes.

But there are some bright spots that are helping halt evictions across the country, and here in Cleveland. Right to Counsel programs guarantee legal representation to eligible residents facing eviction, leveling the playing field against landlords and the complex housing court system.

Cleveland's Right to Counsel ordinance, passed by Cleveland City Council in October 2019, has been active since July, and at the end of last month, released a report on its first 6 months of cases.

It found that of cases closed, 93% of clients that were seeking to avoid an eviction or involuntary move were successful. And  83% of clients that were seeking more time to move were successful.  

But the number of people Legal Aid can help through the ordinance is limited -- it only applies to tenants living at or below 100% of the federal poverty level (thats around $21 thousand dollars a year for a family of three) with at least one minor child in the house.

Today we're going to talk about Right to Counsel 6 months in and where the program could go to give more access to those in need.

Later in the show, we'll discuss a new 'zine' from the Ohio Progressive Asian Women's Leadership organization.

It's titled "2020 Pandemic Stories", and it uses an array of art forms to tell the stories of women and their experiences over the course of the pandemic; from frontline health care workers, to those who have been the victims of racist attacks during this time.

- Kevin Kelley, President, Cleveland City Council

- Hazel G. Remesch, Supervising Attorney, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland

- Andrew Katusin, Director, Basic Needs, United Way of Greater Cleveland

- Jona Hilaro, OPAWL Co-Director

- Fariha Tayyab, OPAWL's QuaranZine Editor in Chief

Drew Maziasz is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and also serves as the show’s technical producer.