Deena Zakim

  • Hosted by Greater Boston Legal Services
  • Sponsored by Anonymous, Martha Mazzone, Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, Inc.
  • Service location Boston, Massachusetts
  • Law school Suffolk University Law School
  • Issue area Housing - Affordable Housing/Microfinance
  • Fellowship class year 2015
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

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

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.

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 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 also 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.

Fellowship Highlights

During Deena’s Fellowship, Deena:

  • Represented tenants in voucher termination proceedings, evictions, and judicial review of administrative decisions
  • Developed materials, conduct trainings, and provide ongoing support for community advocates and pro-bono attorneys
  • Connected with organizations serving clients with disabilities to establish timely intervention networks and set up referral systems with other housing programs
  • Developed and strengthened relationships with subsidy providers
  • Advocated for tenant-friendly reform within the housing agencies and courts

Meet Other Fellows Like Deena

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Oshuteiya Campbell

Host: Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.

Sponsor: The Florida Bar Foundation

Darrius Woods

Host: Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc.

Sponsor: Eversheds Sutherland, The Home Depot

Christopher Kradle

Host: Housing Justice Center

Sponsor: AmeriCorps VISTA, Housing Justice Center

Bradley Freedman

Host: Bread for the City

Sponsor: AmeriCorps VISTA, Bread for the City