As a result of COVID-19, Los Angeles is on the precipice of an unprecedented housing crisis, and to help meet the coming eviction tsunami, UCLA School of Law’s Office of Public Interest Programs has partnered with nine local legal services organizations to create the Los Angeles Eviction Defense and Prevention Fellowship. The innovative program will fund eight graduates from UCLA Law’s Class of 2020 who will receive training, mentoring and direct experience in housing law.
While most immediately serving people impacted by the current crisis, the program will also train a cohort of attorneys to do housing-related pro bono work throughout their careers. Fellows will work with local legal service providers in eviction defense and prevention services, including doing outreach clinics to reach those who might not otherwise be able to access legal services. Fellows will receive a $5,000 stipend and commit to continuing housing-related pro bono work for the first two years they are in practice.
In launching the 2020 program, UCLA Law partnered with the California Women’s Law Center, the John M. Langston Bar Association, the AIDS Legal Project of the Los Angeles County Bar, and the Los Angeles Right to Counsel Coalition.
“UCLA Law is the law school of Los Angeles,” says Associate Dean of Public Interest Law Brad Sears. “As a public law school, serving vulnerable communities in Los Angeles and beyond is in our DNA. But 2020 has been an especially tough year, and the UCLA Law community is committed to working collaboratively to help those most in need.”
Even before COVID-19, at least 600,000 people in Los Angeles County lived in households where 90% of all income was spent on housing, and the pandemic has made housing instability and other related and distressing issues including unemployment more acute. As a result, many residents are on the precipice of an eviction cliff: As many as 365,000 people in L.A. County are at risk of being forced out of their homes this fall. Many vulnerable communities who already face substantial barriers to accessing legal representation – women of color, recent immigrants, families with children, the elderly, LGBTQ people, and people living with HIV and other disabilities – will be hit the hardest.
“We are thrilled our students can participate in this program,” says Associate Director of Public Interest Counseling Brenda Suttonwills ’92. “This is an opportunity for students to contribute in line with their public-interest commitments and to receive invaluable training in their first year out of law school.”