On April 16, 2014, Stephanie Skaff, 2014 president of The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) and the Justice & Diversity Center (JDC), along with Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) staff attorney, Erin Katayama, gave comments to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee, urging them to do everything possible to increase funding for legal representation for tenants in San Francisco.
Stephanie Skaff described how BASF has been at the forefront of making legal services available to low income San Franciscans. These services are provided through JDC, which uses both volunteer and staff attorneys to provide legal representation to tenants who are facing eviction.
Last year, JDC staff and volunteers provided eviction defense services to 1,300 households, suggesting that legal services are desperately needed. Unfortunately, only 25 percent of those 1,300 households were provided with a full-scope attorney.
Tenants who receive full-scope representation receive 5-10 times better outcomes in their eviction cases than tenants who are self-represented or who receive only limited-scope representation. Without full-scope representation by an experienced attorney, tenants are forced to try to litigate eviction cases and dispute post-settlement allegations of breach on their own against high paid and experienced law firms.
Katayama provided comments from the perspective of the only staff attorney at HAP whose full-time job is to provide full-scope representation to tenants who are facing eviction.
Full-scope representation is particularly important for HAP’s clients, who are more vulnerable because they are severely disabled, elderly, families with small children, or people who have limited English proficiency. It is virtually impossible for self-represented tenants to do discovery, subpoenas, or prepare for a trial without an attorney, which is why full-scope representation by an experienced eviction attorney is so beneficial.
Because organizations like HAP and others in San Francisco are already established to do this kind of work, we can quickly hire, train, and mobilize new attorneys who can help by providing full scope representation. Preventing eviction is the only way that the mayor’s goal of preventing further displacement of low-income San Franciscans can be realized.
To learn more about the work of the Homeless Advocacy Project, visit www.sfbar.org/HAP or email firstname.lastname@example.org.