New Rhode Island program will offer free legal help to those facing eviction | Rhode Island

(The Center Square) – Legal services are being expanded in Rhode Island to support housing stability and stem evictions.

Rhode Island Legal Services, a nonprofit, has received a $3.1 million contract through the state’s Department of Housing that will provide free legal services to low-income residents and families to keep them in their homes, Gov. Dan McKee said.

“All Rhode Islanders deserve fair and equitable opportunities to secure and maintain safe, affordable housing,” McKee said in a statement. “As we continue to make both immediate investments in our statewide shelter capacity and long-term investments in permanent housing, this program aims to prevent homelessness by providing at-risk individuals and families with the legal resources they need to stay in their homes.”

According to a release, the nonprofit law firm will administer the new program. The program will be run with partnerships and subcontractors, including the Rhode Island Center for Justice, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, and HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University.

According to a release, the entity will provide legal services pertaining to housing issues for tenants with an income that is not above 80% of the area median income. Patrons will receive legal representation in eviction cases and mediation proceedings with landlords, along with case management and housing stability-related counseling.

According to a release, funding stems from Rhode Island’s portion of federal Emergency Rental Assistance 2 dollars that were awarded through the American Rescue Plan Act.

“Providing access to legal counsel is an effective way to reduce evictions, helping to prevent homelessness for individuals and families,” Secretary of Housing Stefan Pryor said in a statement.

As the governor’s office continues its efforts to make immediate investments to the housing landscape, which includes $30 million for infrastructure improvements designed to expand shelter solutions, support prospective homeowners through a $30 million first-time homebuyers assistance program, and use a $166 million to support affordable housing development, the legal services expand upon those efforts.

“This is an unprecedented investment in housing stability for Rhode Islanders,” Steven S. Flores, the director of RILS Housing Law Center, said in a statement. “It will allow RILS and its partners to offer a range of legal help to thousands more low-income Rhode Islanders as they struggle to stay safely housed or avoid disruptive displacements, which can push families to the breaking point.”

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