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Cleveland Foundation awards $2.25 million to Legal Aid

Posted May 1, 2020
1:27 pm

The Cleveland Foundation recently announced $2.25 million to The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland to support housing stability for low-income and vulnerable people.

This is the largest philanthropic gift in Legal Aid’s 115-year history, as well as largest gift to The Campaign for Legal Aid – a five-year effort to extend Legal Aid’s reach in Northeast Ohio. The Campaign is a comprehensive five-year effort to raise the resources needed to grow and sustain proven programs and build new opportunities for serving families living in poverty.

On October 1st, 2019, Cleveland became the first city in the Midwest and only the fourth in the United States to enact a right to counsel in eviction cases. Cleveland’s law guarantees families at or below 100% of the federal poverty guidelines with at least one child in the household will be entitled to legal representation when facing eviction. Implementation of the new law is initially a public-private partnership, with data and evaluation developing a case for long-term government sustainability and growth.

Every year, 9,000 evictions are filed in Cleveland – a city with a 35% poverty rate, growing more today amid the coronavirus pandemic. Studies have shown that tenants who receive legal representation in eviction cases are more likely to avoid displacement and save on rent or fees. Unfortunately, the vast majority of tenants facing eviction cannot afford legal representation. This will change in Cleveland beginning July 1, 2020, when the city’s right to counsel law takes effect. The City of Cleveland asked United Way of Greater Cleveland to oversee implementation of the new law, and Legal Aid will be the designated provider of legal services.

“The Cleveland Foundation’s funding will go far to ensure justice prevails in eviction court proceedings,” says Colleen Cotter, Esq., Executive Director of Legal Aid. “This program will stabilize families and neighborhoods, and result in children staying in school and parents keeping their jobs. We are incredibly grateful to the Cleveland Foundation for this investment.”

The Cleveland Foundation has previously supported Legal Aid’s Housing Justice Alliance, which advocates for fair housing policies throughout Northeast Ohio and whose work influenced Cleveland’s new law.

“We’re proud to support Legal Aid as it undertakes this important work that will directly impact some of Cleveland’s most vulnerable residents,” says Ronn Richard, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Foundation. “We all have a responsibility to create a more just society, and that starts with leveling the playing field in court when basic needs are at stake.”

Legal Aid provides civil legal help when and where people need it. When civil legal problems threaten one’s safety, health, housing, education, employment, or financial stability, Legal Aid prevents these problems from escalating and often reverses the negative impacts. Thanks to the support of the philanthropic community, all clients receive services at no cost.

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