Fight for Justice for Low Income Seniors
The NYC Coalition for a Right to Counsel for Senior Citizens is asking the public to show up in large numbers for their RALLY at CITY HALL, TOMORROW at NOON to urge the city to establish a right to counsel for low-income seniors in housing court.
This growing coalition of legal and human rights supporters contends that justice is broken in NYC, because Seniors who cannot afford a lawyer to represent them in housing court are being evicted or losing their homes from foreclosure. From the City-wide Taskforce on housing Court:
Every year, more than 300,000 petitions are filed in the New York City Housing Court, resulting in the eviction of 25,000 households. Over three-quarters of seniors facing eviction have an annual income less then $25,000 per year, making it virtually impossible for them to afford to hire a private attorney. Senior Citizens are also losing their homes and equity in increasing numbers as the result of foreclosure. The existing legal services and legal aid programs lack the resources to meet the overwhelming need. The result? The vast majority of senior citizens are forced to navigate court alone, without an attorney.
Thrown into housing court without adequate representation, many Seniors who have legitimate defenses against eviction are never properly heard because of this unfair disadvantage. Laura Abel of the Brennan Center explains that many evictions happen because the tenant didn't have access to a lawyer:
The state’s highest judge once described New York’s housing as “an impenetrable thicket confusing not only to laymen but to lawyers.” Even when tenants without lawyers have strong defenses against an eviction, they are often unaware of those defenses, or are unable to assert them in a way that gets the court’s attention.
Several studies have shown that tenants represented by lawyers are significantly more successful in Housing Court than tenants who represent themselves. For example, one study found that only 22 percent of tenants with lawyers ended up with final judgments f eviction against them, compared with 51 percent of unrepresented tenants. That suggests that a lot of peoople are getting evicted solely because they were unable to find a lawyer to help them. (Keep Reading the Article)
It's a no-brainer that no one should be evicted based on his or her ability to pay for a lawyer, right? And isn't this especially true when we're talking about the Greatest Generation, who endured the Depression and WWII and, frankly, wiped the butts and fed the mouths of the rest of us? Unfortunately, access to counsel is often precisely what makes the difference between homelessness and housing for many low income Seniors.
If you want to do something about it, Come to City Hall Tomorrow at Noon for a rally in support of the right to counsel for Seniors facing eviction or foreclosure. Hope to see you there. For more information on the coaltions efforts click here or click here for the flyer.
For more information on the effort to establish a right to counsel in housing court, see here.
For information on the broader effort to establish a right to counsel in important civil matters, see here.