Headshot of Dontae James

Dontae James

  • Hosted by South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center
  • Sponsored by Housing Justice Program
  • Service location South Carolina
  • Issue area Housing- Advocacy and Policy, Housing/Eviction
  • Fellowship class year 2023
  • Program Housing Justice Program

The Project

Dontae’s project at South Carolina Appleseed will focus on coordinating with community partners and impacted individuals to help bring attention to the need to improve eviction laws, access to affordable housing, and housing disparities in South Carolina.

South Carolina has some of the worst outcomes in the country when it comes to housing disputes and landlord-tenant relations, and the state leads the nation in many categories related to eviction filings, eviction rates, and outcomes unfavorable to tenants. Many tenants facing eviction do not have access to legal counsel, and this eviction filing will follow them as a marker in the public index for life regardless of the outcome of their case. This issue effects all tenants, but disproportionately affects those living in low-income housing, immigrant communities, and families with generational poverty.

Dontae was inspired to do this work after working with disadvantaged communities in North Carolina at a local public defender’s office, as well as an immigration law firm. Dontae has seen firsthand how advocacy can impact peoples’ lives on a personal level, and he wants to continue to build a career advocating for people.

Fellowship Plans

Dontae will be working with attorneys in South Carolina to help implement a more effective and expansive housing court. This will include streamlining the intake process to more effectively address client needs before they appear in court, working with pro bono attorneys to help increase access to counsel, and lobbying with South Carolina justices to implement policies that favor tenants & the discretion of their records. Dontae will also be working directly with people in affected communities to increase literacy regarding the eviction process and tenant rights.

Media

How a Criminal Record Can Lead To a Lifetime of Housing Issues in South Carolina

My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has allowed me to serve in a capacity where I can advocate on behalf of people facing housing insecurity and the uphill battle that accompanies it. I do not think that there is more meaningful work I could be doing.

Dontae James /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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