Here’s one way to help ease Los Angeles’ homeless crisis: Give poor, vulnerable tenants lawyers to help them fight unjust evictions. Why? Because it’s often easier, cheaper and more humane to help people stay in their homes than it is to get them back on their feet after they have become homeless.
No person in the United States can be put on trial for their life or liberty, or indeed any criminal penalty down to the smallest traffic fine, without access to a lawyer to provide expert assistance. That principle was established by the 6th Amendment in 1789, although the actual right to counsel remained spotty until Clarence Earl Gideon’s case famously went to the Supreme Court in 1963. The Gideon ruling established that any criminal defendant in any court had a right to an appointed lawyer if they couldn’t afford one themselves.
Tenant activists are urging Los Angeles leaders to make sure that renters facing harassment or eviction can turn to a lawyer for help.