Our new statewide Housing Helpline streamlines access to free legal aid for tenants

Helpline rounds out our new 88-county eviction diversion program, which boosts help to tenants in underserved areas

RALEIGH — Tenants in North Carolina who are facing eviction or struggling with other housing issues have a new, easier way to get free legal help.

As of yesterday, North Carolinians in all 100 counties can call 1-877-201-6426 (toll-free) to connect directly to our newly expanded team of housing lawyers, paralegals and outreach workers. The Housing Helpline is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

“Tenants facing eviction or struggling with other housing problems no longer have to call our general Helpline, which has been overwhelmed with callers since the start of the pandemic,” said Scheree M. Gilchrist, managing attorney of our Central Intake Unit, which runs the helplines.

“Our new Housing Helpline allows tenants to bypass the general queue, avoid long hold times and quickly reach our housing specialists,” Gilchrist said. “We are in the middle of an eviction crisis and evictions move fast in North Carolina. We don’t want families being put out on the street because they couldn’t reach us in time.”

While we are launching the Housing Helpline largely in response to the COVID-related eviction crisis, the helpline is available to tenants with any housing issue, including problems with repairs and maintenance, housing vouchers, public housing, mobile homes, rental assistance programs and other issues.

The Housing Helpline is part of our new 88-county eviction diversion program, which boosts services to residents of traditionally underserved, largely rural counties in our state. The new program serves the same 88 counties covered by the North Carolina Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program, which provides rent and utility assistance to struggling tenants.

While we have always handled eviction cases in these 88 counties, new funding from the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency has allowed us to increase our services in these areas. With the new funding, we have hired more lawyers, paralegals and outreach workers to provide more holistic services to tenants. In addition to the core legal services we have always provided—legal advice and representation—the new program allows us to dedicate more resources to negotiating with landlords and helping tenants resolve any barriers to receiving rental assistance from HOPE and other programs.

A partnership with the HOPE Program is an integral part of our new eviction diversion effort. We will receive referrals directly from HOPE, educate tenants and landlords about how the program works, negotiate with landlords who do not want to accept HOPE funds, and represent tenants in court when the landlord chooses to pursue an eviction rather than accept the HOPE funds or after accepting rental assistance.

“We are excited about this partnership with HOPE,” Peter Gilbert, the head of the new eviction diversion program, said. “Legal assistance and rental assistance are both often necessary to keeping people in their homes. By working together, Legal Aid NC and HOPE can make sure that all the necessary elements come together to prevent eviction and keep families off the street.”

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About

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at legalaidnc.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Need legal help? Call 1-866-219-5262 (toll-free) or apply online.

Media contact

Sean Driscoll, Director of Public Relations, 919-856-2132, seand@legalaidnc.org