MLAC managed the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project to provide legal assistance in pandemic-related eviction cases. In addition to preserving housing security, avoiding homelessness, and preserving the overall wellbeing of thousands of people, CELHP strengthened collaborations and developed important infrastructure within the legal aid community that will extend beyond the lifetime of CELHP.
CELHP expanded the capacity of existing legal aid organizations to provide essential help to income-eligible tenants facing eviction due to COVID-19 and to landlords who are income-eligible owner-occupants of two- and three-family homes. MLAC oversaw the delivery of services through contracts with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, the Volunteer Lawyers Project, and six regional legal aid organizations across the state: Community Legal Aid, De Novo Center for Justice and Healing, Greater Boston Legal Services, MetroWest Legal Services, Northeast Legal Aid, and South Coastal Counties Legal Services.
CELHP provided referrals, legal information, assistance, and legal representation in all sittings of the Massachusetts Housing Court, including the lawyer for the day program, to preserve or achieve housing stability. When possible, it also provided legal assistance in District Courts with high-volume summary process caseloads and to prevent the termination of subsidies prior to court to avert eviction.
MLAC partnered with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and the Volunteer Lawyers Project to:
– Recruit and train lawyers and paralegals for temporary, fulltime paid positions with regional legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth to provide support and legal representation at all stages of the eviction process, including assistance prior to a court filing, and
– Expand the pool of pro bono attorneys who provide support and legal representation to eligible landlords and tenants, at all stages of the eviction process, with support, training, and supervision from attorneys experienced in landlord-tenant law.
The program was part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s Eviction Diversion Initiative, to support tenants and landlords facing financial challenges caused by the pandemic. The goal of this initiative was to keep tenants safely in their homes and to support the ongoing expenses of landlords after the Commonwealth’s pause of evictions and foreclosures expired. For more information please see the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project website.