United Way of Central Maryland has partnered with Civil Justice Inc. to bring access to legal representation to Baltimore area residents over the course of the next four years.
The group was awarded a $4 million grant by the Maryland Legal Services Corporation to create a first-of-its-kind initiative in Maryland that will address the need among residents facing eviction for legal representation.
A study funded by the Abell Foundation for the Public Justice Center found that while 96% of landlords have legal representation during eviction proceedings, just 1% of tenants have legal representation. Of tenants without representation, 93% are displaced, while only 8% of tenants with representation are displaced.
Over the course of the pilot and program, Civil Justice Inc., United Way of Central Maryland and A2J Tech will develop a referral system to quickly and efficiently process program referrals and applications and match tenants with legal service providers. The program will first be piloted in Baltimore, where there are more than 140,000 eviction filings each year, but only 125,000 rental units.
In cities of comparable demographic and economic makeup such as Atlanta, Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee, the eviction filing rate is 17% (or 17 evictions per 100 renter households). In Baltimore, the eviction filing rate is 115% (or 115 evictions per 100 households).
The program removes the burden of tenants having to research and call multiple lawyers to represent them in rent court, as well as the cost burden, while pairing tenants with quality legal representation. The 211 Maryland United Way Helpline, a free, confidential service available 24/7/365 in more than 140 languages, will serve as the entry point to the program, directing callers to help through Civil Justice Inc. The Helpline will also provide additional supportive resources to callers.