Legal Fellowship Works to Keep Families Together

Legal Fellowship Works to Keep Families Together

Monday, December 15, 2014 - 12:30pm

CAMPAIGN: Clorox's CR Matters Blog


By Whitney Rubenstein, Equal Justice Works Fellow

Ms. Matthews, a client of the East Bay Community Law Center, is a black, single mother of three living in Oakland public housing.  She has worked hard to create a stable life and home for her family despite often lacking resources.  However, when Ms. Matthew’s 16-year-old son was arrested, she faced an impossible decision: ban her son from the family home or keep her family intact but risk eviction and homelessness.

This is because in Oakland, Calif., (and other cities) a family can be evicted if any household member or guest, including a minor, allegedly engages in criminal activity on or off of Oakland Housing Authority premises. Less than half of these arrests result in formal charges or a conviction, but once arrested, it’s too late. The Oakland Housing Authority can, and does, commence eviction proceedings against the family.

The effects of Oakland Housing Authority’s broad sweeping policy on crime are exacerbated by the disproportionate arrest rates of poor youth of color in Oakland, many of whom live in public housing. Black youth in Oakland are arrested 23 times more than white youth despite comprising less than 30 percent of the youth population.

Eviction is the end of the line for families like the Matthews. It leads to homelessness, displaces families and uproots children from their schools. Families are caught in systems that punish them when what they so desperately need is help.  My project offers this help through a unique approach to change.

Read more about Whitney's approach and Clorox's pro bono program on Clorox's CR Matters blog.