News Roundup: Hurricane Harvey, and Right to Counsel for Eviction Defense

August 31, 2017 - 4:38 pm


Like you, we’ve been unable to take our eyes off the harrowing images of inundation and suffering along the Texas Gulf Coast. We are working to get a jump on a part of the story we know is too often overlooked – the consequential legal problems that inevitably accompany such a disaster, and the vital role of civil legal aid in coming to the rescue.

Thanks to JusticeVoices network members Saundra Brown and Tracy Figueroa, disaster assistance directors at Lone Star Legal Aid and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, respectively, we’ve made a strong start with this excellent piece from The Atlantic, posted yesterday: The Legal Crises to Follow in Hurricane Harvey’s Wake.

On Monday, Lone Star’s Houston headquarters, home to about half its 200-member staff, was disabled by an explosion and fire – fortunately, no one was hurt. Saundra’s own home took on five feet of water. But as The Atlantic piece vividly describes, Saundra, Tracy, and their legal aid colleagues have the experience, resilience and determination for their current roles as first responders.

To stay the long course to an equitable recovery, especially for this disaster’s most vulnerable survivors, they will need help from all of us. And even those of us in the legal community need reminding that we can each help meet the legal needs of survivors of this epic disaster. A donation to Lone Star Legal Aid, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, or another legal aid first responder in the region would be a good place to start.

Additional coverage this week that highlights the importance of civil legal aid in disaster assistance:

Right to Counsel for Eviction Defense

Earlier in the month, we were gratified to provide support for the extensive coverage of a much happier milestone: on August 11, New York City enacted first-in-the-nation legislation that commits $155 million per year to ensure that low-income tenants have access to legal representation for eviction defense. In addition to numerous pieces in local media, national media described New York City’s breakthrough as the leading edge of efforts in several cities to provide legal counsel as a solution to crises of evictions and displacement.

Congratulations to our network members in New York on your exciting victory and strong media advocacy, and thanks as always to essential network partner John Pollock at the National Coalition for Civil Right to Counsel for your deep expertise and for connecting us with sources in several cities.