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.
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.
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
Janae’s (she/her) Fellowship with Virginia Poverty Law Center will address the housing affordability crisis. Her work will focus on increasing affordable homeownership opportunities for low-income Virginians and traditionally marginalized communities. She will provide pro se tenants facing evictions with the knowledge and resources to represent themselves in court effectively, work with state officials to propose more robust tenant protections, and litigate landlord-tenant claims in court.
Virginia does not have a right to counsel in civil cases. To mitigate the impact of lack of counsel, Janae’s Fellowship will empower pro se tenants by providing legal education and information to fight eviction cases. This work will increase tenants’ engagement in the eviction process and potentially reduce the occurrence of default judgments. Janae will also collaborate with community organizations to identify and provide in-court representation to tenants whose cases illustrate the injustices that occur. Additionally, Janae’s will work to improve housing stability through partnerships to increase affordable housing.
Janae will assist in developing an online self-help portal containing legal information and sample pleadings that pro se tenants can use to fight eviction cases. Furthermore, Janae plans to provide in-court representation to tenants whose cases highlight and challenge systematic practices. Additionally, Janae will collaborate with community partners to increase homeownership opportunities amongst low-income Virginians by devising a down payment assistance program.
“No matter who you are or where you come from, at some point in your life, you will need someone to advocate on your behalf. I consider it a privilege to be that advocate for the tenants of Virginia experiencing evictions and navigating the court system.”
Janae Craddock /
2023 Housing Justice Program Fellow