Cleveland Eviction Defense Fund Gets $1.25 Million Investment to Fight Housing Instability

The five-year investment will offer financial assistance, legal help and education

click to enlarge Mayor Justin Bibb and Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin attended an conference about the fund. - The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
Mayor Justin Bibb and Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin attended an conference about the fund.
A new partnership between the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and the Rocket Community Fund will invest $1.25 million to create the Cleveland Eviction Defense Fund, which will offer emergency rental assistance, legal representation and advocacy.

“This support from Rocket Community Fund bolsters the current public-private partnership focused on housing stability, and will help us plan for long-term government sustainability of this important right,” said Legal Aid executive director Colleen Cotter. “Together, we can create a community in which all people experience dignity and justice, free from poverty and oppression.”

After Cleveland City Council in 2019 passed legislation to provide free legal assistance to low-income households with at least one child facing eviction, Cleveland Legal Aid and the United Way of Greater Cleveland created the Right to Counsel Cleveland program.

“Even though City Council and the city of Cleveland legislated a right to counsel, it wasn't fully funded in 2019 by government support, so there's been philanthropic support since then and the Rocket Community Fund support is helping bolster that,” said Legal Aid spokesperson Melanie Shakarian. “But in addition to the financial investment, leaders of Rocket Community Fund are working with Legal Aid and city leaders on long-term sustainability of the right to counsel.”

Last year, a report by the Rocket Community Fund’s community outreach and engagement program, Neighbor to Neighbor, found many Cleveland respondents faced housing vulnerabilities. Nearly 20% of those surveyed had difficulties paying rent and roughly 30% were concerned about utilities.

The Cleveland Eviction Defense Fund plans to ease some residents’ housing insecurity by supporting Legal Aid’s partnership with the Cleveland Housing Network to fund emergency rental assistance, help tenants find affordable housing and more. Between 2023 and 2025, the partnership aims to assist more than 650 households.

The fund will also finance community legal education offered by Legal Aid to teach tenants about their rights before they face evictions.

“Many Cleveland residents who are at risk of eviction do not attend their eviction hearings,” said Mayor Justin Bibb. “This is just one example that highlights the critical need for education and outreach programs to raise awareness and aid to those facing eviction.”

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