Every week, the Campaign’s legal aid programs receive requests for urgent help from New Hampshire residents facing imminent homelessness through illegal evictions or legal problems that may cost them access to federally-subsidized housing.
Through its Housing Hotline, LARC advocates help clients avoid illegal evictions by providing them with self help instructions by telephone.
NHLA advocates promote equal access to housing by preventing illegal evictions, challenging discriminatory housing practices, and engaging in community outreach. Through the Foreclosure Relief Project, NHLA collaborates with LARC, the Pro Bono Program and HomeHelpNH to prevent homelessness by either resolving cases so homeowners can keep their property or negotiating a smooth and graceful exit with a plan for an affordable next home.
Greta's Legal Aid Success Story
Ari reached out for legal help after he had done everything he could to help his grandmother, who only wanted to age in dignity in her Charlestown home that she and her husband bought 50 years ago.
After Greta’s husband died, she gave her son Jack power of attorney, and signed ownership of her house to Jack and his wife Martha. They verbally gave Greta a “life estate,” a promise that she could stay in the home and they would care for her until her death.
But they quickly took complete control of Greta’s checkbook. They required her to pay all of the household bills from her Social Security and her husband’s life insurance.
When other family members would visit, Martha called the police and placed “No Trespass” orders against them.
Martha had episodes of violent outbursts, and eventually called the police to report that Greta, a physically small and frail woman in her 80s, assaulted her.
Martha filed for a restraining order, and Greta was forced to leave her home and all her personal belongings. Then Jack and Martha put the home up for sale.
“It was destroying my grandmother, to lose her home where she raised her family,” Ari said.
Senior Law Project Director Cheryl Steinberg and Fair Housing Project Director Christine Wellington worked together on Greta’s case.
“The first thing we did was to defend Greta in the restraining order case. Cross-examination quickly revealed who the real victim was,” says Wellington.
She and Steinberg then obtained an injunction to stop the sale of the home and to protect Greta’s personal belongings until they could prove her life estate in the property. The case was ultimately resolved in mediation.
“Greta’s son and daughter-in-law did not honor their promise to care for her,” Wellington said. “Instead they financially exploited her and verbally abused her. Only the force of law could stop the sale of the home and provide a venue for resolution of this case.”
“The help from NHLA was imperative. I don’t know where we would be right now if they hadn’t won this case,” Ari says. “I can’t even say how much gratitude I have for Chris and Cheryl. My grandmother has her home back. She laughs all the time, she smiles all the time.”
Kelli's Legal Aid Success Story
Kelli loved her work as a nurse, and loved being able to support her daughter and disabled mother, until she sustained severe brain damage in a stroke. The damage left Kelli unable to handle long-term critical thinking, like what to do after her landlord said he planned to kick her and her family out for not paying rent.
But she had always paid, in full and and on time. Kelli believes he wanted her to leave because she complained about tripping in a hole he had left unfilled on the property. Not knowing what to do, Kelli called LARC, where an advocate found errors in the landlord’s paperwork.
“Before, I felt like I was all alone, like I had no teammates, and (my advocate) made it seem like I had a big team, even if it was just one person.”
Kelli’s advocate wrote a motion to help her get the case dismissed, and explained how she should present her case. Then Kelli went to court on her own and argued, successfully, against the landlord’s experienced attorney.
“I wasn’t even that scared,” she said. “It’s a life saving thing. When you’re so low and you’ve got no resources, when someone makes you think, ‘I can get through this,’ that just means the world.”
Samantha's Legal Aid Success Story
In January, me and my partner had a domestic violence issue, and we separated. He couldn’t come anywhere near the house, and I was left with all the bills, the house, the car. I couldn’t afford it. I went to the management but they gave me an eviction notice. They didn’t even try to work with me.
I had to do everything I could so I wouldn’t be homeless in the cold. I couldn’t go to the wet shelter. It’s absolutely no good for anyone that’s in recovery. It’s a wet shelter. People can bring in drugs, they can bring in alcohol and there’s too much at stake for me.
I was a nurse for 16 years, until a 525-pound woman I was caring for fell on me, and I blew out three discs in my back. That was back when the oxycontin was big. A couple of years later, I turned the page from taking medicine for pain to being addicted.
It’s been two years now that I’m in recovery. I haven’t been in trouble once. I work second-shift and I get out of work around 11, but the shelter doors are shut already by then. Even if they let me in, they close at 5 or 6 in the morning and I wouldn’t be able to keep up with no sleep like that. I would have ended up sleeping in my car. I don’t know if I could have kept my job.
I didn’t have to go through any of that, because the time frame LARC gave me make all the difference. (My advocate) held my head together, kept me from feeling panicked. This is something an addict would go out and use over. He told me what I needed to know. He said don’t worry, they’re not going to come and kick you out today. Knowing that he was in my corner, knowing I could call and say, what’s going to happen now, it allowed me to sleep. It allowed me to think about my next step.
He had me read, verbatim, what was on all the forms, and he’s the one that noticed they were trying to collect more than just my rent in the “rent owed” calculations. They can’t do that. Maybe I would have noticed if I had time to go to the library, and research this, but maybe I wouldn’t. Then he helped me write a motion, and I presented it myself in court. That’s why the judge continued the hearing.
I was scared, of course. I had no idea when I got the eviction notice, where am I going to go, what am I going to do with my stuff? When LARC came into the picture and I knew I wasn’t going to be homeless tomorrow, it gave me the space to figure out my next step and not panic, and not worry about going backwards.