Post Date: September 15, 2006
The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau recently hosted a clinic to help low-income tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent. Held at the HLS Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain, and modeled after those previously organized by the HLAB, the clinic served 16 families from around the Boston area.
Run by HLAB's new Senior Clinical Fellow Pattie Whiting, the goal of the clinic was to provide the families with legal assistance that will allow them to remain in their apartments. Assisted by HLS students Jonathon Bashford, James Meeker and Julie Park, the tenants were shown how to fill out answer-and-discovery forms, gather landlord information, and ultimately build strong counterclaims in favor of their case.
"'Pro se' clinics of the type conducted by Bureau students help to close that access-to-justice gap," said David Grossman '88, HLAB's new managing attorney and faculty director. "The end result, with just a few hours of work, is that 16 low-income families are significantly less likely to be made homeless." He noted that because of limited legal services resources, 95 percent of low-income tenants facing eviction in Boston are forced to appear in court without attorneys.
The tenants were not the only ones who benefited from the clinic. According to Park, "The clinic was a new environment in which to test our legal skills. Trying to simultaneously answer the questions of multiple tenants is completely different than working day in and day out on one client's case."