Advocating with Passion and Purpose

MARCH 2022
Meet Indy Legal Aid's New
Board Members & Officer
Indy Legal Aid's board of directors recently elected three new board members and one new officer at its annual meeting on March 11, 2022 .

“We are very pleased with our new members and officer,” said John Floreancig, Indy Legal Aid General Counsel and CEO. “We greatly appreciate their dedication and enthusiasm in fulfilling Indy Legal Aid’s mission.”

Indy Legal Aid Officers are as follows:
N. Kent Smith, President, (Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman); Parwana Noorzad, 1st Vice President (Eli Lilly and Company); Lee Christie, 2nd Vice President, (Christie Farrell Lee & Bell); Elizabeth Russell-Hartman, Treasurer (Retired, Krieg Devault); and John McLaughlin, Secretary, Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse). John is a new officer and recently served as the Co-Chair of the record-setting 2021 Attorney Holiday Campaign fundraiser.

New members include:
Libby Yin Goodknight, Partner, Krieg DeVault
Marc Lopez, Marc Lopez Law Firm

Photo above is John C. Trimble, Partner at Lewis Wagner, being honored with the president’s gavel during Indy Legal Aid's annual meeting after two years of service as President of the Board. All of us at Indy Legal Aid would like to express our deep appreciation to John for his many years of service to Indy Legal Aid. We are forever grateful, John! Photo includes John Floreancig, General Counsel & CEO, Indy Legal Aid and N. Kent Smith, Hall Render and incoming Indy Legal Aid Board President.
Indy Legal Aid Helping Tenants Remain in Their Homes
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in thousands of tenants in Marion County who are vulnerable to eviction, housing instability, and economic and social consequences that follow from loss of housing. The majority of evictions are for non-payment of rent. While Indianapolis’s rental assistance program has had an extensive reach, it has inevitably fallen far short of universal coverage; some tenants do not qualify for assistance, but many others who may qualify for have not applied, either because they are unaware of the program or are unaware of how it could benefit them. Because of the far-reaching impact of the local eviction crisis, for the next few months the newsletter will be focusing on our Tenant Advocacy Program, or TAP. TAP was funded by the City of Indianapolis. The purpose of the program is to help reduce the number of evictions in Marion County. Indy Legal Aid attorneys, Deetta Steinmetz and Emily Browning, are spearheading the effort for Indy Legal Aid.
Timely intervention with tenants and landlords during initial eviction hearings presents an opportunity to avoid eviction for tenants who are behind on rent and qualify for the rental assistance program – to the benefit of landlord and tenant alike. Moreover, most tenants currently face eviction without the benefit of counsel. Data consistently show that tenants have far greater chances of remaining housed when they have some form of legal assistance during the eviction process. TAP is designed to ensure that as many tenants in Marion County small claims courts as possible are connected to financial rental assistance and have some form of representation. Here is where Indy Legal Aid comes in.
Three mornings each week, Emily and Deetta meet tenants at the small claims courts in Pike, Wayne, and Center Townships. At these locations, they conduct legal consultations, advise tenants of Indianapolis’s COVID-19 rental assistance program, and relay other relevant financial resources that may be available. In addition, they offer to represent the tenant for purposes of negotiating with the landlord to achieve a resolution that avoids a hearing and a formal Order of eviction.
Deetta described how difficult and frightening eviction hearings are for tenants. “Tenants come into court facing uncertainty about their ability to remain in their homes. In addition to the stress caused by the possibility of losing a basic need such as housing, they usually have not been to court previously, are not familiar with court procedures or the eviction process and are stressed and fearful about their hearing. Our ability to inform and advise them about how the process works, what their options are, and what the hearing will be like reduces their stress level tremendously.” Deetta also explained that by partnering with the City in this program, many evictions can be avoided. “Through ‘navigators’ hired by the City, we are able to work with IndyRent to get eviction tenants’ rental assistance money to them as quickly as possible. And often, we are able to work with the landlords’ attorneys to continue the hearing a week or two to allow the IndyRent payment to come through.”
Unfortunately, in cases in which the tenant is not eligible for rental assistance or the landlord won’t agree to a continuance, the picture is much more bleak. Although the rulings vary greatly from judge to judge, tenants are often only given a week or two to get their rent caught up or they have to move out. In many cases, they are only given five days from the date of the hearing to vacate their homes. 
Indy Legal Aid always serves the legal needs of the most vulnerable members of our society, but nowhere is the need for our services more pronounced. Many of these tenants are low-income seniors, disabled individuals, or single mothers of young children. They often live paycheck-to-paycheck and pay a disproportionate percentage of their income for housing. If anything goes wrong—an unexpected car repair bill, missed work due to illness, or being laid off—they fall behind in rent. “I want to highlight the fact that in this program we are assisting the most vulnerable members of our community to maintain the most basic of human needs. This is very important work and it is important that the City is funding this work,” Deetta commented.
March Success Story
"Jane", a young African-American woman, moved out of her apartment immediately after she received an eviction notice on her door. In order to have somewhere to live, she moved to Atlanta to sofa-surf with various family members and friends. In Atlanta, she found a warehouse job and began saving every penny she could to rent her own apartment again.

She did not drive to Indianapolis to attend the eviction hearing because she assumed that she had done exactly what she was required to do by moving out of her apartment. However, the landlord did not notify the court or its attorney that Jane had vacated, so the eviction hearing moved forward on the court’s docket. At the hearing, the Court issued a default judgment of eviction against Jane and set a second hearing on damages to determine what amount, if any, she still owed to the landlord. At the damages hearing, the landlord is allowed to seek past-due rent as well as future rent that the tenant would have paid under the lease until the unit is rented to someone else. The landlord was seeking $4,325 from Jane. Only a portion of that amount was actually for rent; a substantial chunk of the $4,325 was for late fees charged by the landlord, attorneys’ fees incurred to pursue the eviction, and court costs.

On the day of the damages hearing, Jane took the day off work and drove to Indianapolis from Atlanta to attend the hearing. She met with an ILAS attorney at court immediately prior to her hearing. Jane had brought $2,000 -- all of the money she had saved for an apartment -- with her to the hearing to pay her former landlord, hoping to make payments toward the remaining balance. She acknowledged that she had committed to the lease and she was determined to pay whatever she owed.

The ILAS attorney Jane consulted with was able to negotiate an agreement with the landlord's attorney to settle the case. The parties agreed that Jane’s $2,000 satisfied the entire $4,325 debt; the landlord dismissed the case; and the court’s docket entries were updated to reflect that Jane had voluntarily vacated the apartment prior to the eviction hearing rather than having to be evicted.

Jane was so relieved, and so happy with the result in her case, that she cried tears of joy when she thanked the ILAS attorney as she was leaving the court to return to Atlanta.

Indy Legal Aid Receives
Two Prestigious
Seals of Approval
We are pleased to announce that Indy Legal Aid has earned a Candid (formerly Guidestar) Platinum Seal of Transparency five years in a row and Charity Navigator's "Give With Confidence" designation - a 100 out of 100 rating.

Charity Navigator is the world's largest and most trusted nonprofit evaluator. Charity Navigator guides intelligent giving and helps people give to charities with confidence and shine a light on truly effective organizations.

Candid is the world's largest source of information on U.S. nonprofits. The Platinum designation is the highest level bestowed by Candid. The rating designates the “highest level of recognition and an opportunity for nonprofits to share their progress in a meaningful way,” according to the organization’s website. Indy Legal Aid has earned the Platinum status every year since 2018.

“We are honored that the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society has been recognized again with Platinum status with Candid and recently recognized by Charity Navigator for our commitment to accountability and transparency,” said John Floreancig, Indy Legal Aid CEO and General Counsel. “Charity Navigator and Candid are highly respected organizations for measuring nonprofits’ progress. These honors underscore the level at which we work to earn the trust of our current and prospective donors.”
Volunteer Opportunities

Indy Legal Aid has a number of volunteer opportunities for attorneys, students, and the general public. For attorneys, we have pro bono cases, internships for students, and our spring and fall events, along with
light office work.

For more information, click here.

No time to volunteer? Donate now!

We have several ways for you to make a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable Hoosiers in Central Indiana. Approximately $.90 of every dollar donated to Indianapolis Legal Aid Society is directly used to provide programs and services. For more information, click here.
615 N Alabama St, Suite 122
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 635 - 9538
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"The Indianapolis Legal Aid Society is dedicated to ensuring that qualified low-income persons living in the Central Indiana community have access to quality legal assistance for civil disputes."