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By giving tenants a legal right to counsel, Fresno can lower the number of people experiencing homelessness

By Giving Tenants a Legal Right to Counsel, Fresno Can Lower the Number of People Experiencing Homelessness

By Lesly Figueroa—Jan. 7, 2021

It’s a new dawn in the City of Fresno. The city council inaugurated a new mayor and one councilmember to begin the 2021 session.

But even with a new year and mayor, some things have not changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to challenge the Fresno-area with an ICU capacity shortage. And, as the economic effects of the pandemic continue to set in, housing security continues to be a priority issue for residents.

With the new year come new leases and rent increases. All while evictions may resume as soon as February as state and federal restrictions begin to lift. Residents who are backed up in payments and out of work will be impacted the most. Housing was an issue before the pandemic, but what the health emergency has revealed is that when there are disruptions in daily life, there must be protections in place so residents are not left to face a crisis they did not create.

Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, Faith in the Valley, students from Fresno State and residents embarked on a campaign seeking to establish protection for renters that would respond to the lack of legal representation for renters in the City of Fresno when it comes to housing.

A “Right to Counsel” proposal was drafted in December 2020 and outlines in detail why renters in Fresno, a city with a more-than-half renting population, would benefit greatly from implementing legal support for renters who face sudden eviction, on top of habitability issues, illegal rent increases, and other countless problems.

Based on research by Faith in the Valley, more than 28,000 renters are vulnerable to eviction because of hardship caused by COVID-19. Other studies also point to the disproportionate impact that eviction has on Black and Latinx renters, particularly women.

“Civil Right to Counsel ensures that every eligible tenant has an attorney when their housing is at stake. If the City of Fresno establishes a comprehensive Right to Counsel program, then thousands of households will have a better chance of stabilizing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic,” according to the report prepared by the organizations and shared with the city.

Read more at Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability.

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