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Deena Zakim

2015, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Deena Zakim

Deena Zakim

Name of Host Organization: Greater Boston Legal Services
City, State: Boston, Massachusetts
Issue area: Housing - Affordable Housing/Microfinance
Sponsors: Martha Mazzone, Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, Inc., Anonymous

The Project

Deena will defend tenants with disabilities in Greater Boston from voucher termination and corresponding eviction through direct representation, collaboration with service providers, and training of advocates.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project
Voucher holders experience a dual legal struggle when facing eviction – the loss of their housing unit and termination of the very subsidy that would enable them to find alternate affordable housing. Tenants who get legal assistance for one crisis usually cannot get it for the other, even though they frequently occur simultaneously, as one triggers the other. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to terminations and evictions, as they are often caused by disability-related reasons, and they face additional obstacles when looking for alternate, accessible housing. Once an individual loses a voucher, that person is essentially blacklisted from participation in all public or subsidized housing, almost ensuring chronic homelessness. This project will aggressively enforce the rights of families and individuals with disabilities to keep their homes by preserving housing subsidies for this vulnerable population.
The Right Person For This Project
Deena is the right person for the project because:
• She believes housing is vital to achieving health and well-being and is deeply committed to fighting for housing stability, particularly for people with disabilities
• She has worked in the housing field for several years, including as a housing advocate prior to law school and she continued and expanded this work through her internships and clinical placements during law school
• She has worked with many clients facing barriers associated with the disadvantages of disability, poverty, and homelessness and has learned the importance of adjusting her style of advocacy to meet each clients' distinct needs
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship
In the first six months, Deena will:
• Represent tenants in voucher termination proceedings, evictions, and judicial review of administrative decisions
• Develop materials, conduct trainings, and provide ongoing support for community advocates and pro-bono attorneys
• Connect with organizations serving clients with disabilities to establish timely intervention networks and set up referral systems with other housing programs
• Develop and strengthen relationships with subsidy providers
• Advocate for tenant-friendly reform within the housing agencies and courts