Housing issues dominated a legal clinic over the weekend in Akron’s Middlebury neighborhood, with people seeking free help on how to handle everything from foreclosures to evictions.
The clinic was organized by Community Legal Aid and included more than a dozen attorneys who volunteered their time to work with close to 70 people, mostly from Summit County.
Legal Aid Executive Director Steven McGarrity says his group organized a similar clinic last year, when many of the clients were also concerned about housing issues.
“Middlebury – like a lot of low-income neighborhoods – a lot of the people that live in this area are renters. So, because they don’t own the homes that they’re living in, there’s all sorts of issues regarding the quality of the housing. And if they can’t afford to make a payment one month, potential eviction. So there’s just a lot of issues like that.”
McGarrity adds that this year, they saw a large increase in the number of people who wanted to seal their criminal records, following a move by the state to allow an unlimited number of misdemeanors to be expunged.
Duriya Dhinojwala was one of the volunteer attorneys from Akron-based Brennan, Manna and Diamond. She co-founded the firm’s pro bono committee, and says many of the people in Middlebury had bankruptcy issues.
“They need to take a Leave to Plead [an extension of time] to file an answer. Don’t let a complaint go unanswered. The best thing to do is – whenever you get a complaint in the mail – make sure that you file an answer. Because otherwise, the plaintiff can take a default judgement. And you don’t want that happening.”
Community Legal Aid – which covers eight counties in Northeast Ohio – hopes to expand the legal clinics to other Akron neighborhoods in the future.