The first effort of its kind in Ohio and across the Midwest, right to counsel legislation guarantees legal representation in eviction cases for Cleveland families with children living at or below the federal poverty line

Cleveland is the fourth U.S. city to enact Right to Counsel, a proven model which saves millions of dollars in U.S. cities

CLEVELAND: United Way of Greater Cleveland applauds the passage of key legislation today by Cleveland City Council, a city-wide effort that guarantees legal representation for families with children living at or below the poverty line and facing eviction with United Way serving as Lead Partner Organization.

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland’s Housing Justice Alliance effort, initially funded by the Sisters of Charity Foundation’s Innovation Mission and now led by United Way, marks the first of its kind in the state of Ohio and across the Midwest. Cleveland is only the fourth city in the U.S. to pass this legislation which will stabilize the person in need to prevent eviction and break the cycle of poverty.

“Right to counsel is not about tenant versus landlord -- it’s about stabilizing the person in need to prevent eviction and United Way is proud to work alongside City Council, Legal Aid and the Housing Justice Alliance on this public-private partnership,” said Augie Napoli, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland. “This city-wide effort is exactly what fuels the kind of change we need to permanently break the cycle of poverty in Cleveland. We applaud Cleveland City Council on the passage of this essential legislation and Council President Kelley for his leadership and courage in making right to counsel a reality.”

Approximately 9,000 evictions are filed in the City of Cleveland each year -- 60 percent include households with children. Eviction can cause costly and traumatic instability issues and is a root cause of poverty leading to homelessness, job loss and decreased academic performance and school attendance.

“This legislation was not only the right thing to do, but the moral thing to do and I thank City Council for passing Right to Counsel on behalf of the citizens in our city,” said Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley, lead sponsor of the legislation. “We are committed to restoring basic human rights to families in our city and to stabilizing our neighborhoods through our city-wide partnership with United Way and other organizations who have played a vital role in advancing this legislation.”

As the Lead Partner Organization for the Right to Counsel program, United Way brings not only fundraising capacity but also experience in program development and administration, as well as data collection, analysis and outcome measurement. United Way will lead the tracking and reporting of progress made as a result of the passage of this legislation.

For decades, United Way has invested heavily in housing stability and emergency housing. With United Way serving as Lead Partner Organization of the right to counsel legislation, individuals will receive access to legal counsel, as well as access to United Way’s provider network of health and human services nonprofits to connect with wrap-around care, including food, childcare, education, employment opportunities and more. The program will provide legal representation to eligible tenants beginning in June 30, 2020.

The Right to Counsel program is the latest initiative within United Way’s Impact Institute, a think tank with an action plan that gathers the brightest minds throughout private and public sectors to create solutions addressing the root causes of poverty.

By the numbers

In Cuyahoga County, 80 percent of landlords cited non-payment of rent as the primary cause for their eviction filing, and 40 percent of homeless families cited eviction as their primary reason for living in a shelter.

An average of $1,200* in rental support would have prevented eviction, according to preliminary research from Case Western Reserve University — a fraction of the cost of a stay at an emergency shelter for a family, which can cost more than $16,000** on average, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Across the country last year, more than half a million people experienced homelessness on a single night.

Right to Counsel is a proven model that has saved millions of dollars in U.S. cities, including New York City, which experienced an 84 percent decrease in evictions for tenants with legal representation and an estimated cost savings of $320 million per year by preventing issues like family homelessness. Newark and San Francisco also have Right to Counsel.

Tenants can seek more information by contacting United Way’s 2-1-1 HelpLink, a free and confidential 24-hour lifeline with referral specialists or the Legal Aid’s tenant hotline at 216-861-5955.


Founded in 1913, United Way of Greater Cleveland is a local, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting poverty across the Greater Cleveland area. The largest private-sector investor of health and human services, United Way invests in efforts that address poverty using a two-pronged approach. The first prong focuses on the daily issues affecting those living in poverty, the Community Hub for Basic Needs. The second drives research and innovation through the Impact Institute, a think tank with an action plan, focused on identifying long-term solutions to break the cycle of poverty. For more information, visit www.unitedwaycleveland.org.


*approximately two months’ rent

** the approximate cost to stay in an emergency shelter for 68 nights, the average number of nights per stay