Virginia Legal Aid Society, Inc. receives $428,230 over three years to reduce evictions
Martinsville, Va. — A three-year investment of $428,230 from The Harvest Foundation will enable Virginia Legal Aid Society, Inc. to expand its eviction reduction programming in Martinsville and Henry County.
“We work closely with our community partners to create stronger systems for upward economic mobility — everyone deserves an opportunity to support themselves and their families with dignity in safe and affordable housing,” said India Brown, program officer at The Harvest Foundation. “Virginia Legal Aid Society (VLAS) provides a critical resource for families and individuals in Martinsville-Henry County who grapple with unstable housing conditions, which often is the spark that ignites a cycle of poverty. Our partnership with VLAS builds hope for MHC residents needing legal support and an advocate who can help end and prevent this cycle.”
Harvest’s three-year investment will primarily help staff take on legal casework, providing representation and advice to low-income residents in MHC on housing-related cases. It also supports legal education and outreach, so VLAS can help tenants and landlords resolve disputes without involving the legal system.
Harvest helped to re-establish a local VLAS office with a grant announced in 2019. Since then, more than 300 housing-related cases helping 689 were closed — including 55 people facing imminent eviction.
In May 2022, VLAS launched an innovative program placing staff at general district courts in Martinsville and Henry County each week when courts heard eviction cases. Judges announce that representatives from VLAS are in attendance and willing to provide free legal services to eligible clients. With funding from the Virginia Eviction Reduction Pilot (VERP) program and support from the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville, a paralegal does vital work to review dockets, identify potential clients, and manage case materials. According to David Neumeyer, executive director of VLAS, this change significantly increased the number of clients they could help.
“Three years ago, a generous grant from The Harvest Foundation enabled us to reopen an office to serve Martinsville and Henry County exclusively,” Neumeyer said. “Harvest’s new three-year grant, beginning in January 2023, will support the critical work we’re doing to reduce evictions in Martinsville and Henry County. Since May 2022, the number of eviction filings in the area has more than doubled, a trend that shows no signs of slackening. Virginia Legal Aid Society, thanks to Harvest’s support, has been able to send a team into the local district courts and make our services available to all eligible tenants facing eviction. We now expect to continue this work, along with helping low-income tenants with many other housing issues, for years to come.”
Founded in 1977, Virginia Legal Aid Society fulfills its mission to resolve serious legal problems for low-income individuals, promote economic and family stability, reduce poverty through effective legal assistance, and champion equal justice. They serve 26 cities and counties throughout Central, Southside, and Western Tidewater in Virginia.
To find out more, visit vlas.org or call the LawLine at 1-866-534-5243.