October 16, 2015
“Joyce” is a 60-year-old grandmother whose only income is Social Security disability benefits. She is also the legal guardian for two young granddaughters who live with her in a rent-subsidized apartment.
After a routine inspection by the Indianapolis Housing Agency (IHA), their apartment was cited for more than 30 problems that needed to be addressed in order to bring the unit up to Section 8 standards. When the landlord refused to make the repairs, IHA cut off his share of the monthly rent subsidy. Joyce offered to continue paying her portion, but the landlord refused to accept that and filed an eviction notice which was scheduled for a hearing in small claims court.
Although Joyce realized the apartment was not an ideal place to raise her granddaughters, she was having great difficulty finding a new one. She submitted applications at five different Section 8 apartments, but was turned down at each. With an eviction notice looming, other landlords were afraid Joyce might be disqualified to receive Section 8 vouchers in the future. Under program rules, if a Section 8 tenant is evicted from an apartment, they become ineligible to receive vouchers for the next five years.
Terrified she and her granddaughters might become homeless, Joyce believed they were being unfairly punished. She contacted United Way supported Indiana Legal Services (ILS) for legal assistance through its Medical-Legal Partnership program at Eskenazi Health’s North Arlington clinic.
An ILS attorney accompanied Joyce to the eviction hearing. She explained to the judge that Joyce was in this delemma through no fault of her own, describing how the landlord’s refusal to make needed repairs was the reason he lost his portion of the monthly Section 8 payments. The attorney argued that Joyce and her granddaughters would be unfairly punished now and into the foreseeable future if the eviction request was approved.
The judge did not grant the request for eviction. He also ordered the landlord to allow Joyce and her granddaughters to remain in the apartment for another 30 days while she looked for another place to live. With no eviction on her housing record, Joyce remains eligible to receive Section 8 vouchers.
Note: United Way brings together compassionate people committed to improving lives in our community. We help Central Indiana residents achieve and maintain self-sufficiency by directing resources toward four key areas of community impact – Education, Income, Health and Basic Needs. Indiana Legal Services, Inc. is one of over 90 United Way funded agencies working to address one or more of these priorities. Since 1997, United Way has invested nearly $2.6 million in support of their efforts to provide quality legal services which allows poor people equal access to the justice system, empowering them to control their lives and impacting the causes and effects of poverty. The agency’s current Community Fund allocation is $99,180.