Cobb Legal Aid to offer expansive support during the eviction process

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cobb County plans to pump money into a nonprofit program that assists renters who are looking for help in avoiding eviction.

Last month, county commissioners voted to give $680,000 to Cobb Legal Aid to start its Housing Stability Project. It’s money the county received from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan. The program will help address a 28% increase in the number of tenants looking for assistance.

The organization will hire two full-time attorneys and one intake specialist, said Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Murphy. That means legal aid attorneys will be available at the courthouse to help tenants twice a week instead of one day a week.

Being there only once a week has been challenging for the small nonprofit, said Jennifer Yankulova, the managing attorney at Cobb Legal Aid.

“The need is just so overwhelming,” Yankulova said. “We are super excited that now we have this funding to actually increase our staffing and be more present.”

Not only will more renters be represented in court by legal aid attorneys, but members of the nonprofit group will travel around the county, offering educational sessions on eviction law, Yankulova said.

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It comes at the right time, housing experts say.

“Anything you can offer tenants in the way of help, quite honestly, even if it is just filling out a form,” could make a difference, said Dan Pasciuti, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University and an author of recent reports on eviction courts in the state.

Cobb County has one of the few programs in the state that’s located in the courthouse.

The county is also considering a broader, post-pandemic eviction diversion program that could include other services for people in danger of losing their housing.

Yankulova is hopeful that the new cash will lead to more assistance for all parties involved in the eviction process.

“It’s never going to be enough, but I think it is an amazing start and a great step forward,” Yankulova said.