Disaster Legal Aid Trainings: Title Clearing & Property Protection During a Disaster

/ Blog Post

For the final session of the 2021 Disaster Resilience Awareness Month trainings, Meghan Smolensky (she/her/hers), an Equal Justice Works Fellow in the Disaster Relief Unit at Lone Star Legal Aid, joined Rosalinda Martinez, associate state director of outreach and advocacy for AARP in Houston, Texas, for a discussion about disaster-related legal challenges as they relate to homeowners qualifying for different federal assistance and home repair programs. The session, titled “Being Prepared for the Unexpected,” is part of the Disaster Resilience Awareness Month training series. Juan Santamaria, a Lone Star Legal Aid attorney, translated the presentation for Spanish-speaking viewers.

Disasters are increasingly getting more widespread and are having a larger effect on communities. Meghan is no stranger to the impact of disasters, having helped clients recover after Hurricane Harvey. The Disaster Relief Unit at Lone Star Legal Aid continually deals with disasters, the most recent being Winter Storm Uri. Each new disaster brings hardships for a successful recovery, yet the legal issues that many clients face do not change. Through Meghan’s experience, she has learned that legal property issues are at the forefront of disaster recovery.

During this training, Meghan and Rosalinda discussed how homeowners can prepare before a disaster and shared steps they should take to recover after a disaster strikes. Many people do not realize how intertwined disaster benefits and homeownership are—when a person’s property is damaged during a disaster, sometimes the only barrier between them qualifying for repair programs or federal assistance is a lack of homeownership documents. Rosalinda and Meghan talked about what legal documents you need to prove ownership of your home and if you don’t have access to these documents, what you can do to get some type of legal documentation to show that you have an ownership interest. They shared how people can draft simple documents that will have a huge impact in protecting their property and allow their property to be kept in their family.

Here are some resources Rosalinda and Meghan shared for homeowners looking to apply for federal assistance and home repair programs following a disaster:

If your organization is interested in teaming up with Equal Justice Works for Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, please reach out to us at [email protected].

Disaster Resilience Awareness Month is made possible thanks to the generous support of Equal Justice Works host organizations: Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Disability Rights Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc., and YMCA International Services.

The Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Program is funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the Bigglesworth Family Foundation, and individual contributions.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow