Legal aid delivery during Covid-19: Where can technology help? Eviction.

Covid-19 has changed nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

For many Americans, the inability to work because of necessary business closures also means the inability to pay their rent. Now that paychecks are decreased or gone altogether, many Americans face eviction. For civil legal attorneys who focus on housing, they may be standing “virtually” side-by-side with a single mother fighting to keep her children sheltered.

The recently passed CARES Act stops some landlords from filing evictions for nonpayment until July 25, 2020. With this legislative protection, the stress of renters is temporarily quelled, but legal aid work is increased. Civil legal attorneys are currently:

  1. Protecting citizens from being illegally evicted (when they are covered by the CARES Act); and
  2. Preparing for the onslaught of upcoming eviction cases that will happen beginning on July 26, 2020.

TechBridge is happy to support organizations that are fighting evictions, including the Eviction Defense Collaborative (EDC). The EDC is its own agency, working with ten other legal services organizations across San Francisco to provide full scope representation to residential tenants facing eviction. Though the No Eviction Without Representation Act of 2018 was passed before Covid-19, it now protects San Franciscans facing eviction due to the pandemic’s economic impact. Because of TechBridge’s JusticeServer Solution, EDC can connect tenants with lawyers virtually.

TechBridge built EDC an algorithm that allows a tenant’s intake record to be evaluated and key details to be sent to the JusticeServer portal. The portal then evaluates and returns ranked results of suggested referrals to a selected staff member for approval. Tenants are able to enter through one “virtual” door to receive legal representation from one of the ten legal services providers in the Collaborative. For EDC members, they’re ensured that the client they’re serving is eligible for their help without an in-person meeting, thereby reducing risk.

The Eviction Defense Collaborative can now evaluate their citywide referral system by seeing how many cases each agency takes, how many tenants aren’t getting the services they need, and what kind of clients, cases, and issues each legal service organization is handling. This information is critical for the EDC and for the city of San Francisco. The JusticeServer Solution provides objective, reliable, and systematic data that allows EDC to identify trends and see the bigger picture.

“San Francisco is one of the first cities in the country to make legal counsel a right to all tenants facing eviction. For EDC, harnessing data for our new program is critical to assessing its effectiveness, and the stories it shows can have real policy implications,” Rachel Stober, Senior Tenant Right to Counsel Coordinator, EDC.

Evictions because of Covid-19 will impact housing policy in San Francisco and across the country.

We are proud of the partnership we’ve fostered with the EDC and are excited to work with other legal service organizations as policy evolves with our world.

“TechBridge is more than just a technology nonprofit. We’re a policy impacting, Covid-19 resourcing, legal services enhancing nonprofit.” – Samantha Sanchez, TechBridge Legal Technology Leader

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