KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Advocates for renters’ rights are celebrating a victory.

Wednesday marks the start of tenants’ right to counsel in Kansas City, a program that’s intended to provide free legal representation for people facing evictions.

Participants in the KC Tenants community activist group gathered to celebrate on the south steps of City Hall on Wednesday morning.

“The people united will never be defeated,” echoed their chants as they celebrated.

June 1 marks the beginning of this community provision, which is meant for renters who have no place else to turn. In the past, tenants facing eviction who couldn’t afford an attorney had to face the legal system alone.

Kansas City’s office of Housing and Community Development Department has dedicated $700,000 toward four legal aid programs to ensure counsel for those who can’t afford it.

A large number of renters across the nation faced evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It brings a sense of justice to the legal process,” Terrence Wise, an organizer with KC Tenants, said. “Now, we have a humane way to deal with evictions and the tenant and the landlord can come to a mutual agreement and figure out a way where he gets paid and the tenants get to stay in their homes.”

“It helps people who don’t know to understand what’s going on out here so they can get the right to counsel and to know they don’t have to do this alone,” Kenya Banks, who said she was evicted from her home in 2016, said.

KC Tenants has pushed for this provision since 2017. Sixth District Councilwoman Andrea Bough is one of the eleven council members who voted in favor of this move.

“This is an opportunity for them to not be put out on the street and not have a mark of eviction on their record, which makes it even harder for them to rent housing in the future,” Bough said on Wednesday.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas didn’t attend Wednesday morning’s rally at city hall. However, in a news release, the mayor praised this moment, saying it confronts both the issue of homelessness in the metro and the growing lack of affordable housing.