Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Legal Program Helps People Fight Evictions

Legal Aid Society’s Right to Counsel program helps low-income county residents.

The Right to Counsel program has served more than 444 residents since September. File photo by Adam Carr/NNS.

The Right to Counsel program has served more than 444 residents since September. File photo by Adam Carr/NNS.

Milwaukee’s Right to Counsel pilot program, also known as Eviction Free MKE, has been working to slow the pace of evictions since September.

The program provides no-cost legal representation for residents facing eviction or foreclosure. It has served 444 people from its start through December, but Legal Aid of Society of Milwaukee Executive Director Colleen Foley believes it can do more.

“We’re busy, but we want to tap into more people,” she said. “We want to assure we’re helping people the way we want to.”

The program not only provides legal service, but it also provides a social worker to connect people to other services they need.

Here is what else you need to know

The program provides an advocate to help tenants identify and evaluate their legal rights and obligations. Program leaders plan to help by linking both landlords and tenants to available funding, negotiating disputes and accessing wraparound services. The goal is to decrease eviction filings and significantly reduces the public costs associated with the court, criminal justice, and human service system response to evictions. Ultimately, the program seeks to ensure the legal system works in a fair and just manner and that no one side dominates.

Is the program available to everyone?

No. Right to Counsel Milwaukee is for Milwaukee County residents at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. That’s $25,760 for one person and $53,000 for a family of four.

Who is responsible for the program?

United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County provides administrative leadership, including fundraising, communication and outreach, while the Legal Aid Society provides legal advice, representation and community legal education. Legal Aid has hired 10 new lawyers, two paralegals and two intake specialists for the project.

How can people make this process easier for themselves?

1. You can call the hotline at (414) 892-7368 or you can use the website.

2. Have information ready in advance. Applicants will be asked to provide the following during the application process:

  • Eviction summons/complaint
  • A copy of your lease (if you have it)

Applicants should be prepared to discuss their monthly income and other financial information

Is there anything else people should know?

Remember that a vast majority of court hearings are still taking place virtually, so you will have to find access if you don’t have it. This is something you’ll have help with from the program.

Who can I call for financial or legal help if I’m worried about eviction?

  • Community Advocates rent helpline: 414-270-4646
  • Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee: 414-727-5300
  • Mediate Milwaukee: 414-939-8800
  • Legal Action of Wisconsin: 855-947-2529
  • Social Development Commission: 414-906-2700
  • Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union: 414-410-9714
  • Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin: 414-276-7378

UPDATE: What you need to know about the Right to Counsel program that helps residents avoid evictions was originally published by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.

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