Speaking Up For Those Who Need a Voice

As I listened to her speak, I realized how easy it would be for someone to be wrongfully evicted and forced into poverty and homelessness.

Ginette sat down to film an interview this winter, sharing a personal story that would ultimately be shown to hundreds of strangers. Entering into a rent-to-own contract, she told us, was fulfilling a longtime goal of home ownership. It was her piece of the American dream.

What she didn’t realize was that her broker sold the mortgage on the house, but continued to accept her monthly payments. And the bank that now held her mortgage didn’t notify her of the change, as required by law.

Imagine her shock and bewilderment when, after paying her mortgage on time every month, she received an eviction notice from a bank she’d never heard from before. When she approached her broker with the letter, she found that he had been arrested for fraud.

Good, you might think, a happy ending. But that’s not actually true; Ginette’s civil legal encounter was just beginning. She showed up at court, where a judge delayed her hearing and referred her to Greater Boston Legal Services. Ultimately, GBLS attorneys were able to help Ginette keep her home.

“This group of men and women were here for me, so I have a roof over my head,” she said. “And that was the most important thing that anyone has ever, ever done for me.” (Watch her full story here.)

Last week, Governor Baker released his proposed budget, in which the Judiciary – including civil legal aid – was level-funded. Here’s why, even in this fiscal climate, that’s not good enough: civil legal aid to support people facing wrongful evictions actually saves money.

Every $1 invested in legal aid to fight wrongful evictions and foreclosures saves the state $2.69 in shelter, foster care and law enforcement costs. That’s what an independent economic analysis determined in our Investing in Justice Report. Whatever we invest, we get back – and then some.

It’s with that in mind that I urge you to use your voice. Let your legislators know that increasing civil legal aid is part of the solution towards fixing, not exacerbating, the budget gap.

I know that it takes courage to speak up; just as it took courage for Ginette to share her story on camera. I’ll speak up for her and others like her.

Will you?