Inner City Law Center’s Homelessness Prevention Project seeks to preserve safe and decent housing for low-income tenants in Los Angeles. Our focus on homelessness prevention is rooted in ICLC’s founding principle that every person should always be treated with dignity and respect.
More than 70,000 eviction actions are filed in Los Angeles County each year, and the numbers are increasing because of the ongoing economic and foreclosure crises. At ICLC, we routinely see foreclosing banks illegally evicting tenants from apartment buildings, landlords illegally evicting low-income tenants for daring to complain about slum conditions, and families in danger of losing the homes where they have lived for decades because a single rent payment was late. Without legal representation, many of these tenants will be evicted and end up on the streets. ICLC’s innovative homelessness prevention programs recognize that it is far more effective to stop illegal evictions from occurring, rather than dealing with the human and financial costs of homelessness.
The Importance of Representation
The vast majority of tenants facing eviction are not represented by counsel. A 1998 study of 400 eviction cases in Los Angeles found that tenants were represented by attorneys in only 11 cases (2.8 percent). Landlords, in contrast, were represented in 290 of those 400 cases (72.5 percent). Having a lawyer makes a tremendous difference in an eviction case. Without a lawyer, tenants are almost always evicted. A study by ICLC Board Member and UCLA Law Professor Gary Blasi followed 150 randomly selected tenants who did not have lawyers, and found none of them (0%) won at trial. Another study found that tenants who are represented by counsel are more likely than landlords to favorably settle their case or to win at trial.
Inner City Law Center is part of two collaborative projects that provide representation to low-income tenants facing eviction.
- The Los Angeles City Homeless Prevention Project: As part of this collaborative effort with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Neighborhood Legal Services, and LAMP Community, ICLC helps families in rental housing who have lost their jobs, had their salaries cut, lost their health insurance, or face other financial difficulties that put them at risk of homelessness. For these families, ICLC uses a holistic approach to prevent homelessness. This innovative program combines rental assistance, social worker assistance, and legal advocacy to help these low-income families remain in their homes.
- Shriver Project – Los Angeles: This pilot homelessness prevention project is a collaboration with Neighborhood Legal Services, Public Counsel, and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. For low-income tenants facing eviction at the Downtown Los Angeles Courthouse, Inner City Law Center provides free legal counsel that aims to keep people in their homes and off the streets.
Our homelessness prevention staff works closely with volunteer attorneys to represent low-income tenants facing illegal eviction and keep them from becoming homeless. For more information about how you can help with this project please visit our Get Involved page or contact our Director of Pro Bono at Probono@innercitylaw.org. For more information about how Inner City Law Center can help you please visit our Get Help page.