Photo of Kate Merlin

Kate Merlin

  • Hosted by Pisgah Legal Services
  • Sponsored by American Tire Distributors
  • Service location Asheville, North Carolina
  • Law school Wake Forest University School of Law
  • Issue area Housing - Affordable Housing/Microfinance, Housing/Homelessness
  • Fellowship class year 2022
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Kate (she/her/hers) will provide legal representation, policy advocacy, and holistic post-eviction services to low-income Western North Carolinians experiencing housing insecurity.

The United States faces an eviction crisis that disproportionately harms low-income renters and historically marginalized communities. Western North Carolina lacks substantive eviction diversion programs, subjecting tenants to the long-term societal, health, and economic consequences of eviction. Eviction poses a significant threat to residents in the greater Asheville area due to wealth disparities, lengthy subsidized housing waitlists, and a lack of affordable housing. Without eviction protection and affordable housing, low-income and marginalized communities suffer poor health, barriers to employment and education, and lasting harm.

Having experienced housing insecurity as a child and watching her mother experience eviction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kate was driven to find creative ways to help individuals at all stages of a housing crisis. She has seen firsthand the mental and physical strain that eviction processes place upon individuals and has vowed through her project to address cycles of instability and poverty that often follow in the wake of housing insecurity.

Fellowship Plans

Through legal representation, policy advocacy, and post-eviction mitigation strategies, the North Carolina Housing Justice Project will tackle eviction at all stages of the process. During her Fellowship term, Kate will employ a three-pronged approach to provide tenants with holistic eviction protection.

First, she will seek to increase housing stability and affordability in the region. Second, she will focus on securing access to justice for tenants through eviction diversion programs, policy advocacy, and direct representation. Finally, she will mitigate post-eviction fallout by creating a community alliance to provide tenants with access to resources such as storage facilities, moving assistance, and temporary housing services.

My project was born from my belief that housing is a human right and that no mother, no child, and no person should be subjected to the trauma of eviction.

Kate Merlin /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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George Thomas

Host: Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. / Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.

Sponsor: Ohio Access to Justice Foundation

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Shaunita Hampton

Host: Legal Aid of San Mateo County

Sponsor: Fenwick & West LLP

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Host: Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.

Sponsor: Ohio Access to Justice Foundation