A recent California Housing Partnership study found that nearly every renter household at the lowest end of the income spectrum spends more than half their income on rent.

These households are at great risk of homelessness simply because they are one car accident, one medical bill, or one emergency away from lacking the money to pay their rent. Last year’s Homeless Count showed that 14% of homeless individuals became so as a direct result of eviction or foreclosure.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve a motion calling for a 60-day report back on how the County’s historic Homeless Initiative can be augmented to include eviction defense services such as legal representation and financial assistance.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that eviction defense services are key to combatting homelessness because legal representation, particularly coupled with financial assistance, can effectively prevent households facing eviction from losing their homes. In a recent study in New York City, evictions decreased by 77% when households facing eviction were provided legal representation.

Here in LA, the Shriver Housing Project, an innovative program led by Neighborhood Legal Services, provides legal representation to people facing eviction. When provided representation, 42% of tenants facing eviction were able to stay in their homes. The remaining 58% of tenants were able to stay in their homes 68 days longer and receive $5,200 in financial benefits. Tenants were also generally able to have their court record sealed, so their eviction does not appear on their record, making it easier to find a new rental unit.

Supervisor Kuehl, the author of the motion, said, “To reduce homelessness, we must move upstream to prevent people from ever falling into homelessness in the first place. Legal representation plus financial assistance has proven to prevent or delay households facing eviction from losing their homes.”