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Evelina Nava

2015, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Evelina Nava

Evelina Nava

Name of Host Organization: Project Sentinel
City, State: San Francisco, California
Issue area: Housing/Homelessness
Sponsors: Intel, Perkins Coie LLP

The Project

Evelina will provide legal advocacy and outreach to low-income tenants, including monolingual Spanish speakers, in California’s Silicon Valley to improve rental housing conditions and help combat slum housing.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project
Low-income tenants often struggle to resolve habitability problems such as mold and vermin infestations which impact their families’ health. Without legal assistance, many of them face unresponsive landlords and risk retaliatory evictions for requesting repairs. Moreover, many tenants lack adequate legal assistance because of their undocumented status. Undocumented immigrants are especially vulnerable due to a host of factors, including limited English proficiency, insufficient income to move to safer housing, and fear of landlord retaliation leading to deportation. These problems are compounded by a current shortage in Santa Clara County of nearly 54,000 affordable housing units for its lowest-income residents. While the county is home to over 170,000 undocumented immigrants, rental prices in San Jose (the county’s biggest city) are among the highest in the nation. Recently, apartment rents in San Jose increased more than in any other U.S. city. Currently, almost 60 percent of very low-income households pay more than 50 percent of their income in rent in Santa Clara County. At the same time, there is no “just cause” eviction policy in San Jose, where over 40 percent of households are renters.
The Right Person For This Project

Evelina is the right person for the project because:
• She comes from a low-income background and is committed to helping disadvantaged communities
• She has assisted and represented low-income tenants, including monolingual Spanish speakers, in eviction cases as an intern at the East Bay Community Law Center and at Bay Area Legal Aid
• Her Peace Corps service reinforced her passion for community development and addressing root causes of poverty and inequality

Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship

In the first six months, Evelina will:
• Hold habitability clinics in San Jose and assess future clinic locations based on community needs
• Represent low-income tenants in retaliatory eviction proceedings
• Catalog code enforcement practices when tenants request inspections
• Develop a grassroots policy campaign to improve enforcement practices