KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Council members are taking a huge step towards addressing evictions by introducing a bill that would establish ‘right to counsel.’
This would mean free legal representation for people facing eviction in all landlord-tenant cases.
“Right to Counsel will transform how the eviction process works and will inject fairness into an otherwise inhumane process. Kansas City should follow the 12 cities and three states that have already passed it, and vote ‘yes’ for Right to Counsel no,” said Executive Director of Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom, Gina Chiala.
Introduced by Councilwoman Andrea Bough last week, the ordinance was developed by leaders with KC Tenants and Missouri Workers Center/Stand Up KC in partnership with lawyers at Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom.
The ordinance is co-sponsored by Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, Councilman Kevin O’Neill, Councilman Eric Bunch, and Councilwoman Katheryn Shields.
“Sometimes it’s their first eviction, so just like me during my time, I didn’t know I needed any help,” said a leader with Missouri Workers Center and Stand Up KC, Donique Golston.“You’re just walking into this courtroom, all these judge’s and big people in your face, not knowing what to do.”
Golston one of the many pushing for this ordinance to pass. Speaking from experience, she says people who can’t afford their rent, can’t afford a lawyer either.
She said a right to a fighting chance to not get evicted from their homes.
“I really wish I would’ve had this in 2019 when I went through my eviction, it was super scary. I don’t want nobody else put in the situation I been in. This has been a long time coming. Baby steps but we’re getting there,” Golston said.
Because of lack of representation on tenants’ side, the group KC Tenants say landlords win the majority of eviction cases.
But they are hoping this changes soon, as eviction cases are expected to rise.
“This working class that the pandemic is affecting, putting working class families into eviction and homelessness, it’s a whole new ball game,” said Ernesta Coulbourne, a leader with KC Tenants. “Right to Counsel will mean that we won’t have to worry about anxiety and depression because we feel hopeless and that we don’t have a fight to fight when we do. We just needed somebody on our side.
To view the full summary of the ordinance, click here
The ordinance will go before full council for a vote Thursday.