Safe & Stable Homes: Chandra
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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Chandra & Legal Aid Society

Safe & Stable Homes: Chandra

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image of people at a desk with overlay play button When Chandra’s son asked what the letter was on her apartment door, she never thought she’d have to explain something like this. She was scared and confused; how do you explain an eviction notice to your toddler?

Chandra had fallen on hard times during the height of the unprecedented global pandemic. She’d lost her job and keeping up with the rent was difficult. She was scared that soon she and her son would be on the streets with the arrival of the eviction notice, and she didn’t know her next steps. 

About a week after the letter, Chandra received another letter in the mail, this time from Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, offering legal representation for her eviction through their program, EvictionFreeMKE.

“When I got this letter,” Chandra said. “I felt like it was the assistance I needed.”

Before EvictionFreeMKE’s launch in early fall 2021, just 3% of individuals in Milwaukee County had any form of legal representation in the courts when facing eviction. The program is mutually beneficial to landlords and tenants, and often leads to swifter resolutions, since eviction is a zero-sum game. It educates tenants not only about rights, but also obligations – helping to break the cycle of eviction and housing insecurity in the process. EvictionFreeMKE also connects people to resources that can help them get back to a place where they can reset financially.

“The first thing I notice when I talk with someone is a lot of stress, a lot of not knowing,” said Jesse Owens, an attorney with Legal Aid Society and the EvictionFreeMKE program. “Not knowing what's coming next, not knowing what the future holds and thinking that they're going to be out of their home in the next couple weeks. I think that's especially true of families. A lot of times when people have kids, that stress is heightened even more.”

From her initial phone call to Legal Aid Society, Chandra was put at ease and supported. Her story was listened to, and she wasn’t vilified. After meeting with Attorney Owens, she learned that he was going to be there for her every step of the way, including in court.

“Initially I felt that if this was a free organization that I wasn't going to get represented well, but I didn't have any choice. But I was very wrong. He treated me with dignity,” Chandra said. “He treated me like I had a voice.”

“Everyone should have a home and have somewhere that they can feel comfortable and feel safe,” Attorney Owens said. “If you’re at risk of losing your home, you should have someone there by your side if you so choose.”

For Chandra, life is better.For Chandra, life is better. With help from Attorney Owens, her case was dismissed. She has also stayed in her apartment, found a steady job, and life has stabilized for her and her son. 

“Life is back to normal,” she reflected. “I’m forever grateful for Legal Aid and Attorney Owens, and United Way has been one of those organizations that I donate to because of programs like this. You never know when you would be in a situation like I was. I didn’t know that United Way did so much in the community and supports programs like this."

Through United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County’s Safe and Stable Homes initiative, EvictionFreeMKE receives funding to aid their efforts in ending family homelessness.

When you give to United Way, you're not just making a donation. You're changing a life. Chandra, Jesse, and the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee remind us that to live better, we must Live United.