Assemblymember Shelley Mayer Secures $15,000 Grant for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley

September 18, 2017

From Left: Berlinda Mallebranche, Staff Attorney, Yonkers Office; Melinda Bellus, Attorney in Charge, Yonkers Office; Assemblymember Shelley Mayer (AD-90, Yonkers); Chirstopher Oldi, Supervising Attorney, Yonkers Office; Barbara Finkelstein, CEO of the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.

WHITE PLAINS, NY Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV), the only provider of comprehensive civil legal services to those that cannot afford an attorney in the seven counties of the lower and mid-Hudson Valley, was awarded a $15,000 grant through the New York State Legislature thanks to the assistance of New York State Assemblymember Shelley Mayer representing Assembly District 90, Yonkers. This grant will enable LSHV to expand its Yonkers City Housing Court intake program to assist more low-income tenants facing wrongful evictions.

When a family faces eviction and isn't able to afford an attorney, free legal services can help them avoid losing their home. If successful, LSHV attorneys are able to intervene at critical moments and secure a favorable outcome on behalf of our clients by providing legal advice, counsel, and representation in unwarranted eviction cases. The ultimate goal is to prevent homelessness, help our neighbors stay in their homes and remain productive members of society. In 2016, LSHV handled 6,677 housing-related cases impacting 16,872 family members. Here in Westchester, LSHV handled just under 3,500 housing cases -- with more than half of those serving Yonkers residents -- impacting more than 8,500 household members.

"We are truly honored to receive this generous grant from the New York State Legislature. Thanks to Assemblymember Mayer's support, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley will now be able to assist hundreds of additional people facing homelessness in Yonkers," said Barbara Finkelstein, LSHV's CEO.

Though "Justice for All" is a promise given to all Americans, it often eludes those who can't afford an attorney, because there is no right to counsel in most civil matters in this country (only in criminal cases). Thus, people who can't afford legal representation end up going to court alone - and many lose everything. The support of a civil legal services attorney can make all the difference, especially when facing a wrongful eviction. In Housing Court, defendants with an attorney are five times as likely to win their cases as opposed to those without an attorney.

Access to permanent, adequate shelter is a basic human need and right, yet extreme poverty is the strongest predictor of homelessness for families. Homelessness threatens the stability of families and imposes enormous costs to communities. Children in families that are evicted and uprooted typically are set back six months or more in their education. Families that are forced to move often lose important employment opportunities and cannot improve their income or prospects for the future. Communities with higher homelessness rates become blighted. All of this combines to put more and more demands on taxpayers and their local, state and federal governments to undo this cycle of damage.

"I am glad that we were able to assist Legal Services of the Hudson Valley with a grant of $15,000 so they can help more Yonkers residents facing eviction proceedings in the Yonkers City Court," said Assemblymember Shelley Mayer. "Thousands of Yonkers residents face eviction every year, and it is so important that they have legal assistance to protect their rights and reduce the risk of homelessness in our community. This grant will help LSHV extend their services in the Yonkers City Court, and I am pleased that the Assembly was able to contribute to this effort."

For more information about LSHV, visit its website. LSHV's Yonkers Office is located at 30 South Broadway, 6th Floor, Yonkers, NY 10701and can be reached by calling 914-376-3757.