‘Not a fair fight.’ Advocates, officials push to provide free legal aid to low-income tenants fighting eviction. (Boston Globe)

Below is an article published on March 1 by The Boston Globe highlighting the experiences of those facing housing legal issues without proper representation and the need for the right to counsel in Boston. Greater Boston Legal Services attorney Laura Massie and Mass Law Reform Institute attorney Annette Duke are quoted.

When 45-year-old Mary Barrera stood before a judge in the Eastern Division of the Massachusetts Housing Court last year, she was terrified. And she was alone.

Originally from Colombia and living in the United States without legal status, Barrera was facing eviction from her three-bedroom apartment in East Boston, where she and two of her adult children have lived for nearly eight years. They normally split the $2,500 monthly rent, but after briefly losing their jobs during the pandemic, fell behind for one month.

Barrera said they were able to resume paying the following month, but when they couldn’t pay what they owed in full, their landlord moved to evict them.

When the case went to trial, Barrera’s landlord had a lawyer with her. Barrera — with limited English, little understanding of the complex legal system, and homelessness a very real threat — was on her own.

“It’s an experience that I don’t wish on anyone,” Barrera told the Globe with the help of a translator. “It causes all kinds of things — worry, desperation, stress.”

Housing advocates say Barrera’s story is all too common and demonstrates a critical inequity in the current housing court system — which is even more dire given the state’s overburdened emergency shelter system.

Read more at the Boston Globe.