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Leann's Story

"I can't explain the relief I felt hearing my attorney's voice on the phone."

Leeann and her four-year-old daughter were happy to finally be living in their own home. She thought they were safe from abuse. But during his parental visits in Leeann's home, her estranged husband continued his abusive behavior. Leeann reported the abuse to the police, and he was charged with domestic violence.

Following the requirements of her lease agreement, Leeann reported the arrest to her subsidized housing landlord. She was shocked when she received an eviction notice citing her for allowing a person onto the property.

"I wasn't sure what I had done wrong," she says. "I called the police to put an end to his abuse and I let my landlord know about it as required." The eviction notice stated she was entitled to a meeting, so Leeann tried for several weeks to set up that meeting with no success. Then she received a second notice, and the office manager told her that the landlord was starting eviction proceedings.

Unable to afford an attorney, she went to the first court hearing on her own. "I explained how my husband had been coming to harass me and that I had locked my doors and tried not to make a big deal about it around my neighbors." The landlord focused only on the husband's actions on the property, and not about how she had tried to protect herself and her daughter. "I felt like I was being punished." The court upheld the eviction, giving her three weeks to move.

"I was in a panic," she says. "I began researching homeless shelters, trying to figure out where we would go. I worried about losing my daughter because I didn't have a place for us to live."

When Leeann contacted legal aid and discussed her case by telephone, an attorney said she could help. "I can't explain the relief I felt hearing my attorney's voice on the phone," says Leeann.

"Everything she did for me gave me a renewed faith in the justice system."

Her legal aid attorney represented her throughout the appeal process, advocating for the best interests of Leeann and her daughter. She success-fully argued that Leeann's housing rights were protected under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which prohibits subsidized housing landlords from evicting survivors of violence. As a result, the eviction was dismissed and Leeann and her daughter remain secure in their home.

"I felt so alone. But then to have someone step in and show me caring and kindness, while at the same time using the law to help me, was amazing."

In addition, Leeann's positive outcome lead to policy changes related to how victims of domestic violence are treated by subsidized housing landlords. Victims no longer have to worry about losing their homes due to violence that is out of their control.