The city of Winston-Salem is launching a new program to provide free legal representation to those facing eviction.
The latest data from the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel shows that just 3% of tenants are represented by lawyers during eviction proceedings, compared to over 80% of landlords.
“So that kind of spoke to our local community stakeholders," says Wanda Allen-Abraha, director of the Human Relations/Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department for the city of Winston-Salem. "We saw that the playing field was not very level.”
Established in partnership with Legal Aid of North Carolina, the new right-to-counsel program provides tenants who meet certain income and residency requirements with lawyers who can give them one-on-one support. Allen-Abraha says it may also benefit landlords.
“If it's worked out through the right-to-counsel program, which it tends to be, then they can save money as well as the hassle of having to go through replacing that tenant and cleaning out the unit and all of the things that go along with that," she says.
The city set aside $100,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund the program for one year. Those interested in applying can call City Link at 311 and ask for the Human Relations/Diversity Equity and Inclusion department.