In November 2019, Julia lost an eviction trial for non-payment of rent and her landlord was given a court order to evict her. The court’s order is called an execution – a frightening term for tenants. The landlord, however, never used the execution and Julia and her elderly mother remained in their home. It was an uneasy peace, but it kept them housed and allowed them to stay safe when the COVID pandemic hit.
At the start of the COVID pandemic, Allan had no place to go. He had received an eviction Notice to Quit after missing two months of rent and left to avoid court action. Allan had lived with his mother, Sarah, in her apartment a few years ago, so Sarah decided that he should move back in.
Shortly after Allan returned, Sarah’s landlord sent her an eviction Notice to Quit for having someone live with her without permission from the housing complex.
JJ was working three jobs and caring for her two daughters when the pandemic hit. As two of her jobs phased out, she was able to keep the third until an injury flared up, causing her to take fewer hours. As medical bills mounted and her income depleted, JJ began to fall behind on rent. She struggled to pay her phone and WiFi bills and worried that her daughters would not be able to keep up with remote school.
With 1 in 5 Massachusetts residents reporting domestic violence as a reason for their homelessness, collaborations between domestic violence organizations and legal aid can keep survivors housed.
Recently, the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT), the sexual and domestic violence crisis center in Franklin County, referred a case to Community Legal Aid (CLA). The tenant, a single mother, had lost her job because of her abusive partner and owed thousands of dollars in rent. Her landlord refused to accept rental assistance to cover the amount owed and filed an eviction case against her.
When COVID hit and court proceedings moved online, the digital divide quickly became an access to justice divide.
“The justice system is relying on technology to operate efficiently during the pandemic, but this assumes that technology is accessible to all, and as we see with our clients — that just isn’t the case,” says Jolie Main, a CELHP attorney at Northeast Legal Aid (NLA).