Annie Toborg

The Project

Annie’s (she/her/hers) Fellowship with the Maryland’s Tenants’ Right to Counsel Project (TRCP) ensures that income-eligible tenants can access free legal representation during eviction proceedings. 

Despite the violence, trauma, and long-term ramifications of losing a home, the vast majority of tenants who face eviction proceedings do so without any legal assistance. Research shows that tenants who have legal representation achieve much better outcomes and are more likely to stay in their homes. In 2021, Maryland passed a bill, making it the second state in the nation to provide access to counsel to tenants facing an eviction. Maryland’s Tenants’ Right to Counsel Project is critical to counterbalance the disparate bargaining power between landlords and tenants, and to interrupt systems that keep people in poverty.  

Fellowship Plans 

Annie works with Maryland Legal Aid’s Statewide Advocacy Support to ensure that the TRCP is implemented effectively and equitably. Her work during this Fellowship includes legislative advocacy, supporting appellate work, and coalition building with other tenant advocate groups. She will also provide direct representation to tenants, including day-of court representation for tenants facing eviction.

Nationwide, tenants are organizing and advocating for affordable and safe housing. This work is intertwined with and depends on economic justice, racial justice, and other struggles that seek to dismantle systemic oppression. Similar to workers in the labor movement, when tenants get together to fight for better living conditions, we are bound to succeed. 

Housing is more than a physical structure. Housing is home—and home is integral to our identity, our connection to community, and our sense of belonging and safety. When we fight for our home, and all that encompasses, we fight for our dignity as human beings. 

Annie Toborg /
2022 Housing Justice Program Fellow

The Project:

Natali (she/her/hers) provides low-income tenants with a right to counsel and other legal services when they are facing eviction or living in unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions to ensure their rights to stable and secure housing.

This project seeks to address the lack of legal representation for low-income tenants facing housing related legal issues. Black and Latinx low-income communities disparately face housing insecurity. Being a first-generation Latina immigrant herself, whose parents struggled for a long time to find stability when they first arrived, this topic is a personal one for Natali. That is why she chose to work in this field of law. Natali will provide free and adequate legal counsel to low-income community members facing housing instability. She plans to accomplish this through her work on eviction defense, housing code violation cases, and community outreach to help communities know their rights regarding access to safe and secure housing. Everyone should have the right to properly be heard through the guidance of appropriate legal counsel to achieve fair and just outcomes. 

Fellowship Plans:

Natali will address this by focusing on the Access to Counsel in Eviction Program (ACE) at Maryland Legal Aid. In ACE, Natali will use her lawyering skills to help provide direct client services and conduct community outreach. She will work with her colleagues to address the systemic issues found in low-income tenant’s lack of access to counsel when facing housing insecurity and unsafe housing conditions to create a proactive approach instead of a reactive one. Since she is also fluent in Spanish, she will dedicate her efforts to help tenants who feel more comfortable speaking Spanish. 

The Project

Caroline Tripp (she/her/hers) promotes housing stability by representing low-income tenants in eviction proceedings and rent escrow actions.

Maryland housing law incentivizes landlords to file for eviction to collect rent. Between 2000 and 2018, there was an eviction filing rate of 83.3%, a number more than ten times the 7.7% rate for the other 49 states. As a result, Baltimore County has a failure to pay rent docket of over a thousand cases daily. Systematic inequalities are visible in rent court, in 2022 more than 90% of landlords have counsel compared to less than 10% of tenants.

Fellowship Plans

During her fellowship, Caroline will implement Maryland’s recent Access to Counsel in Evictions legislation, which provides low-income tenants with legal representation in eviction proceedings. Her legal work will include fighting evictions and enforcing tenants’ rights to safe and habitable housing through rent escrow cases. She will also be engaging in community outreach, educating tenants about their rights, and mobilizing people living in dangerous conditions.

Caroline is from Maryland and is excited to return to her home state and give back to the community that shaped her. She is grateful that her fellowship gives her the opportunity to engage with tenants through outreach.

I’m grateful my Equal Justice Works Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to return to my home state and give back to the community that raised me.

Caroline Tripp /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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

The Project

Dan’s project focuses on addressing housing instability in and near Petersburg, Virginia through his representation of low-income individuals as a housing attorney with Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Inc. Petersburg has one of the highest eviction rates among small cities in the U.S. and the surrounding cities and counties Dan serves face much the same problem. Eviction disproportionately affects those experiencing poverty, meaning they are less likely to be able to obtain an attorney. Many of these individuals also experience other conflicts with their landlords that can be addressed through the assistance of an attorney.Fellowship Plans

To help address these problems, Dan will represent eligible individuals in housing-related litigation, including eviction defense and affirmative litigation to address issues like poor housing conditions, lockouts, and other abuses by landlords. Dan will additionally engage in community outreach to engage others who can assist and legal training to train more attorneys who can then lend their services to those individuals in need.

Dan became inspired to do this work during his time assisting Central Virginia Legal Aid Society as a pro bono attorney. He realized he could use his skills and education to make a difference in the lives of people who may not otherwise have been able to receive legal assistance. Housing is a fundamental need that so many unfortunately fear the loss of or lose, and Dan desires to make a difference for as many of these individuals as he can.

Through my Equal Justice Works Fellowship, I will put my legal skills to work assisting low-income individuals in Petersburg, Virginia and the surrounding areas who are experiencing housing instability or other housing issues.

Dan Shupe /
2023 Fellow in the Housing Justice Program

The Project

Lisa’s project with South Carolina Legal Services will focus on offering assistance with housing issues, such as evictions, to underserved and underprivileged members of our community.

At South Carolina Legal Services, Lisa will serve low-income individuals who are at risk or currently experiencing housing instability, involuntary displacement, and eviction.

Fellowship Plans

Lisa will attend relevant legal training and conferences that will provide information to benefit the clients. Lisa will provide legal advice and representation to assist those facing housing instability, involuntary displacement, eviction, or other landlord/tenant issues. Lisa will provide outreach services to the community to educate and inform them of services offered to assist community members with evictions and other housing and landlord/tenant issues.

Lisa knows the security of having a place to call home, and is grateful to be able to help others have a place that they too can call home.

My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has given me with the opportunity to help our low-income clients obtain or maintain housing, a basic need for our clients.

Lisa Beharry /
2023 Fellow in the Housing Justice Program

The Project

Amanda will collaborate with Attorney Fellows at Maryland Legal Aid, the state’s largest provider of free and direct legal services, to create an educational campaign to share information about Maryland’s new Access to Counsel in Evictions law with tenants who are most vulnerable to eviction. This effort will include outreach to housing rights advocates, tenant organizations, community development corporations, local housing departments and social service providers on the front lines of Maryland’s eviction crisis. Amanda hopes to see tenants find their collective power and increase the number of Marylanders utilizing the services allotted by Access to Counsel in Evictions.

During the 2021 legislative session, the Access to Counsel in Evictions law was passed by the Maryland General Assembly. There are many detrimental personal and societal costs of evictions—including displacement, homelessness, and long-lasting health implications. Landlords and housing providers have historically been represented by counsel in 90% of the time, while tenants have not had representation in 90% of cases. This creates a wildly unfair playing field and a situation where access to representation is a simple and impactful solution. Those most impacted by this inequity are black and brown households, those households led by women, and our most vulnerable senior and disabled neighbors.

Fellowship Plans

Amanda’s campaign intends to be both relationship and data driven. Amanda will utilize census information to pin-point neighborhoods in the target region most vulnerable to eviction. Additionally, Amanda will work to meet tenants where they are as they navigate the services and systems currently in place to address their needs. Through a collection of educational sessions and door knocking efforts in collaboration with our Attorney Fellows, Amanda hopes to see tenants find the strength in their collective voice and power.

Amanda is passionate about housing justice and has had several working roles in that community. Amanda is a social worker by trade but uses a macro lens to uplift the profession’s foundational value of social justice. Amanda believes that when we have more than we need, it is our obligation to create a longer table, not a higher wall.

No one can thrive when their basic needs are compromised, and safe housing is the bare minimum. Eviction prevention is the difference between stability and uncertainty—sometimes life and death.

Amanda Catherine Wisniewski /
2023 Fellow in the Housing Justice Program

The Project

Olivia’s (she/her) Fellowship will provide direct representation to limited-income families who face housing instability or uninhabitable conditions at their place of residence.

Housing injustice persists in a myriad of ways in central Virginia– through poor housing conditions, a lack of affordable housing options coupled with financial insecurity, housing discrimination, and a daunting legal system that can be difficult for tenants to navigate on their own. Olivia believes that access to representation is one step toward promoting housing justice in Virginia.

The legal process can be daunting for tenants. As of July 1, 2022, when numerous changes in Virginia’s landlord-tenant laws became effective, there are now fewer tenant-friendly laws in place to aid tenants facing eviction. Additionally, some obstacles can prevent tenants from being able to appear in court, such as lack of transportation or childcare, or an inability to miss time from work. Individual legal representation is imperative to tenants, especially those residing in Richmond, which historically has had one of the highest eviction rates in the country.

Fellowship Plans

Olivia plans to provide legal representation to limited-income tenants in the General District Courts of Richmond City, Henrico County, Goochland County, and Hanover County. Olivia plans to carry a substantial caseload of landlord-tenant cases, providing assistance with eviction defense and aiding tenants in asserting their right to safe, habitable housing and obtaining redress for unlawful landlord practices.

The Project

E.V. (they/them) will increase housing stability for low-income Marylanders with disabilities by providing direct legal representation for people facing eviction or housing insecurity. Many people are faced with this issue due to the lack of adequate support services or the housing provider’s failure to provide reasonable accommodations or modifications to ensure equal use and access. E.V. will leverage the benefits of Disability Rights Maryland (DRM)’s Fair Housing settlements by systematically promoting the inclusion and integration of people with disabilities in the community.

While housing discrimination against people with disabilities is prohibited under Federal law, people with disabilities routinely face difficulty obtaining and remaining sustainably housed in affordable, accessible homes. People with disabilities are more likely to experience unemployment and poverty and are more likely than their non-disabled peers to be significantly rent-burdened. As of 2017, an estimated 44% of all recipients of federally subsidized housing assistance were people with disabilities. Like other low-income renters, people with disabilities often have difficulty finding legal representation, resulting in eviction and loss of housing, which often leads to worsened health outcomes.

Fellowship Plans

E.V. will provide direct legal representation to tenants with disabilities facing eviction, subsidy termination/denial, who require assistance submitting and negotiating reasonable accommodation/modification requests, or who are otherwise at risk of housing instability for reasons related to their disability in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Prince George’s County. In collaboration with other Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program Fellows working in Baltimore City, they will engage in outreach and provide educational resources, including Know Your Rights trainings to community groups, participants of subsidized housing programs covered by Fair Housing Settlements, other service providers supporting people with disabilities, and coalition partners.

The Project

Elliett’s project focuses on eviction prevention in Maryland, helping to provide day-of-court representation, as well as resources to help prevent eviction to low-income families.

She is the Lower Shore Housing Case Manager for Mid-Shore Pro Bono. She assists the housing attorney in providing legal and resource assistance for tenants facing eviction in Dorchester, Wicomico, and Somerset Counties on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Elliett’s work focuses on failure to pay rent, breach of lease, tenant holding over, rent escrow, wrongful detainer, and shield laws. Through this work, she hopes to help lower the eviction rate in Maryland and to inform tenants of their rights.

Elliett’s work as an intern with Mid Shore Pro Bono in 2021 inspired her. While interning, she was made aware of the high eviction rates. She also saw how tenants are treated in certain housing circumstances and the high number of low-income families who don’t realize they have rights.

Fellowship Plans

Elliett plans to complete these goals by advocating for those in need, whether it be inside or outside of court. Sometimes all people may need is for someone to listen to their story or sit with them in court. This Fellowship gives her the opportunity to reach the people who need advocacy in court. Without the Fellowship, she wouldn’t be able to let them know they have rights and that there is help for them.

This opportunity gives you the chance to make a difference in people’s lives and give hope to those that think no one cares. There’s nothing more defeating than losing the roof over your head and the safety of your family. Showing them, you are there in their corner can mean the world to someone in their predicament."

Elliett Earhart /
2022 Housing Justice Program Fellow