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Cleveland Inches Closer to Right to Counsel for Citizens in Need Facing Eviction (OH)

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Cleveland Inches Closer to Right to Counsel for Citizens in Need Facing Eviction

"Call it a progressive move for Cleveland.

The city is one step closer to legislating a right to counsel in housing court for low-income individuals, thanks to Cleveland City Council legislation introduced on Aug. 21.

If successfully established, Cleveland would become just the fourth city in the country — behind New York City, San Francisco and Newark, N.J. — with a guaranteed right to counsel. Studies show that would stand to benefit not just the individuals and their families facing eviction, but the wider community and, perhaps counterintuitively, even the real estate market itself.

It's something citizens need in Cleveland, where the number of homeless families living in emergency shelters doubled from 2008 to 2016.

Statistics from the Ohio Supreme Court indicate there are roughly 9,000 evictions filed each year in Cleveland — where about 58% of all homes are rentals — and about 20,000 countywide. Meanwhile, an analysis by The Eviction Lab indicates an average of 12 people were evicted each day in Cleveland in 2016, where the eviction rate of 4.53% is nearly double the national average.

Establishing a right to counsel has been a driving focus for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland under folks like Hazel Remesch, supervising attorney in the nonprofit's housing group and a leader in the related Housing Justice Alliance.

You can read more about the history of right to counsel, why it's needed and movements to legislate those rights in U.S. cities in recent years in this Crain's story from July.

Part of the challenge is securing funding to administer the program and pay lawyers who'd work on the related cases..."

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