We are available to help during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Yes We_re Open sign on a door
Dear friends, 

This pandemic is revealing more plainly than ever the cracks in the system between the 'have-nots' and the 'haves,' with the 'have-nots,' least able to provide the missing resources. 

We remain open, and our dedicated staff continues to work remotely throughout the crisis to help Philadelphians access those resources. See our "get help" page for how to contact us.

We hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy.
We are preparing to take on illegal evictions and promote housing stability during and after the COVID-19 crisis

If you are facing an illegal eviction_ call 911 and Tenant Legal Aid at 267-443-2500
The COVID-19 crisis and the closure of non-essential businesses and schools has led to thousands of Philadelphians losing weeks of income. With rent and other expenses due, this health crisis has the potential to become a serious housing crisis without decisive action from local and state leaders. 
On March 12, we organized a joint statement signed by more than 20 legal service and tenant organizations in support of an eviction moratorium in Philadelphia and the closure of eviction court. That moratorium is now in effect through at least April 30 throughout Pennsylvania. Though evictions are currently banned, we are concerned about a potential spike in illegal lockouts, where landlords take matters into their own hands and attempt to force out tenants with threats, locked doors, or shut-off utilities. We have organized with Community Legal Services, the Tenant Union Representation Network, and other organizations to take referrals from the Tenant Legal Aid hotline at 267-443-2500 to rapidly respond to these cases. No one should be removed from their homes by any means whatsoever while we take on COVID-19.
On March 31, we joined 12 other organizations to send a letter to Philadelphia City Council and the Mayor's Office, calling for the eviction moratorium to be extended until at least two months after the stay-at-home order is lifted. We also urge City Council to focus on housing stability in the wake of this crisis, through measures like a rent & mortgage waiver or an extended repayment window. Read the letter online here.
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We are defending the City of Philadelphia's right to take action against gun violence by stemming the tide of illegal handguns

Staff attorney Ben Geffen and client Kim Burrell
Staff attorney Ben Geffen and client Kim Burrell

At a hearing on March 5, a Court granted our clients' request to defend Philadelphia's ability to take action to keep illegal guns off the streets. Last year, the city began enforcing a law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns within 24 hours. The first defendant charged under this law has asked the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to block the City from enforcing the ordinance against him or anyone else. Our clients are fighting back against this permanent injunction alongside the City of Philadelphia.
We are representing two mothers, Kim Burrell and Freda Hall, who have lost children in shooting committed with illegal guns, along with CeaseFirePA, Mothers in Charge, and Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, with pro bono co-counsel from Saul Ewing LLP. The city's lost and stolen gun law will make straw purchasing--buying a gun in order to re-sell it illegally--more difficult. It takes away the convenient excuse that many people use when a gun they illegally sold or gave away is used in a crime: a bogus claim that they had lost the gun, or that it had been stolen from them.
Read more about the hearing and the case in a  March 6 article from WHYY. Once the courts reopen, we will be back in court to conclude the hearing on a permanent injunction. Our clients will share their firsthand experience with the devastating effects of gun violence fueled by straw purchasers and the illicit market--not just in Philadelphia, but across the state. We will share information about this hearing when it is scheduled, and we hope to see you there.  
Judge orders high-rise owners to pay back rent illegally collected from hundreds of seniors for unsafe housing

Law Center attorney George Donnelly _center_ with clients Diana Dukes and Samuel Wolfwolk_ residents of Brith Sholom
Law Center attorney George Donnelly (center) with clients Diana Dukes and Samuel Wolfolk, residents of Brith Sholom House

Seniors living in Brith Sholom House won a huge victory on March 10 in their battle for safe housing, winning back rent that had been unlawfully collected from them for dangerous housing. We represented tenants from the high-rise apartment building to oppose their landlord's request for a conditional rental license.Their landlords requested this license even though the building, which is home to more than 250 seniors, has a fire suppression system that has been out of compliance with the Philadelphia code for over a decade. 

Before the March 10th hearing, the Court had already denied the landlords' request for a rental license twice in October and December of 2019. Under Philadelphia law, rental housing must be licensed and safe in order for landlords to collect rent. On March 10, as our clients requested, the Court ordered that all rent collected illegally since the October hearing--when tenants had the legal right to withhold rent and use the strongest tool they have to demand a safe place to live--must be returned to the tenants. We were assisted by pro-bono co-counsel from Dechert LLP, as well as the Philadelphia Tenants Union, TURN, and the tenants of Brith Sholom, who have been organizing for improved housing conditions in the building for many months. 

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Law Center in the News: COVID-19 highlights school funding disparities

Michael Churchill
Michael Churchill

School closures due to COIVD-19 have revealed the substantial disparities in school funding between Pennsylvania School Districts. Our attorney Michael Churchill was quoted in an Associated Press report on the School District of Philadelphia's decision to forgo mandatory online instruction, as many students lacked access to computers or high speed internet at home. The District is now working to distribute computers to students, but has continued to face challenges in the weeks since schools were closed. 

"It's showing the cracks in the system between the 'have-nots' and the 'haves,' so that the 'have-nots,' who probably have the greatest needs, are the least able to provide the missing resources. It is not a surprise," said Michael Churchill. The AP article was printed in the New York Times and other national outlets. 

On March 23, we joined more than 70 organizations in signing a letter, drafted by the Education Law Center, demanding that Governor Tom Wolf issue an executive order and strong guidance requiring school districts to provide remote instruction to all students, including those with disabilities and English language learners. 
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Announcing the  Richard Berkman & Toni Seidl Health Care Justice Project

The Richard Berkman _ Toni Seidl Health Care Justice Project
We are excited to announce a new project to support our work promoting healthy communities and access to care. Though the Richard Berkman & Toni Seidl Health Care Justice Project, we improve health outcomes in low-income communities, especially for children, by addressing systemic barriers to healthcare and public health threats. Learn more here.

This project supports our work taking on gun violence, a public health crisis in Philadelphia. We are working to develop new legal theories for regulating firearms under Pennsylvania's current gun laws, which have blocked virtually all attempts at local gun control. 

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Welcome  Zakia Elliott and Shauna Itri to our Board of Directors!

Zakie Elliott
Zakia Elliott
Shauna Itri
Shauna Itri
We are excited to welcome two new members to our Board of Directors, Zakia Elliott and Shauna Itri! Both were elected at our March Board of Directors meeting, held via teleconference. Zakia Elliott is a Program Manager at Philly Climate Works, a coalition of labor and environmental groups working to build a safe climate future for Philadelphia. Shauna Itri is a Partner at Seeger Weiss LLP, specializing in whistleblower claims. Help welcome them by liking their post on LinkedIn!
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