Emily Blackshire

The Project

Emily’s (she/her) project will focus on expanding tenants’ rights in counties across South Carolina.

In South Carolina and across the country, eviction rates are rising as eviction moratoria have ended, housing shortages result in increased rent, and urban and small-town renewal projects alike have displaced low-income residents. Legal proceedings are confusing and intimidating for tenants facing eviction and there are not designated times or places in court that matters related to housing are handled separately from other civil cases. This confusion is compounded by barriers to court attendance, let alone retention of counsel, including a lack of reliable transportation or childcare, or financial insecurity that is usually the cause of the eviction lawsuit in the first place. Because evictions can be automatic when a tenant fails to appear in court, and because evictions in South Carolina remain on a person’s record for life, tenants facing eviction can face lifelong collateral consequences that could have been avoided had a tenant had access to legal representation at or before a court date.

Fellowship Plans

Emily plans to partner with magistrate courts and community organizers across several counties to create infrastructure for a housing court system that provides access to counsel for all tenants at risk of eviction. Housing Courts would allow each tenant facing eviction access to an attorney, and terms of court would be held at specific and consistent times wherein only issues regarding landlords and tenants would be heard. These courts would be tailored to the needs of each county that will host them, accounting for the specific barriers experienced by tenants in both urban and rural areas.

As a former public defender, I have seen firsthand how integral stable housing is to all aspects of a person’s legal, personal, and social wellbeing. I am so excited that this Equal Justice Works fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with community members across my home state to protect tenants and keep our neighbors housed.”

Emily Blackshire /
2022 Fellow in the Housing Justice Program

The Project

Lonnie assisted low-income citizens of South Carolina in obtaining jobs through community education, community support, and direct representation. This will cover a host of legal issues, including obtaining expungements, pardons, identification documents, driver’s and professional licenses, and housing.

The Project

Lashawnda advocated for the educational rights of low-income dual-system involved children and students critically at risk of court involvement through policy advocacy, special education advocacy, legal education, and legal training.  

Georgia youth in foster care are critically at risk of justice involvement. Children in foster care come to school with compounded issues and barriers due to the circumstances leading to removal, complex trauma, and a host of other problems that largely remain unaddressed. Of the approximate 14,000 children in Georgia foster care, less than a third are likely to graduate from high school. More than 75% of this special population of children perform below grade level. Despite special group status, foster children are still more likely to experience exclusionary school discipline and justice involvement due to behavioral challenges they may exhibit as a result of removal(s) from their families, constant school and placement transfers, and incidents of trauma before and during their time in care. Capitalizing on the Georgia Appleseed Foster Care Student Tribunal Project and Bridges to Behavioral Wellness, this project aimed to change the social and academic trajectory of justice-involved youth in foster care, particularly children of color and children with disabilities, and other students at high risk of involvement.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Lashawnda:

  • Directly represented and assisted dozens of justice-involved children, families, and service providers in South Carolina and Georgia to increase and maintain access to education services and supports
  • Partnered with several local, regional, and state agencies and organizations to improve policy and legislation affecting at-risk children and those with current dependency or delinquency involvement
  • Increased access to legal representation, meaningful evaluations, and individualized supports and accommodations for justice-involved clients with disabilities

Next Steps

Lashawnda decided to continue her advocacy work as a staff attorney for Georgia Appleseed and Atlanta Legal Aid. Lashawnda tackles systemic justice and policy issues at Georgia Appleseed and directly represents children in foster care with significant disabilities at Atlanta Legal Aid.

Media

‘Negative outcomes’ for kids linked to push for school safety