Free Eviction Defense for Low Income Long Beach Residents Continues into Spring
More Than 75 Families Served So Far, But Countless More Still At Risk Of Homelessness…
Long Beach, CA – A new homelessness prevention program in Long Beach which offers free attorneys to low income individuals and families facing eviction at the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse has now helped more than 75 individuals and families since its launch three months ago.
BASTA Inc., a Tenant Defense Non-Profit Legal Services Organization, founded “BASTA Universal” in November 2019 to provide emergency trial defense free of charge to poor tenants facing eviction in Los Angeles County as part of ongoing efforts to combat homelessness.
As a result, BASTA defense attorneys now appear in every courtroom in Los Angeles County that hears Unlawful Detainer (eviction) cases each and every day they hear them. The attorneys identify tenant-defendants determined by the Court to be low income and offer to defend them at no cost, all the way through a trial if necessary.
Attorney Matthis Chiroux runs the BASTA Universal program in Long Beach, where he is now a recognizable fixture at the Courthouse. Every Monday and Wednesday when the Court hears eviction cases, Matthis arrives early and his voice can be heard booming in the hallway before the courtroom even opens its doors:
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I am an attorney who represents tenants being evicted by their landlords,” says Matthis. “If you are a low-income tenant being evicted by your landlord today and you do not have an attorney, I may be able to represent you free of charge.”
On a typical morning in Long Beach, a half dozen or more tenants take Matthis up on his offer. He assumes responsibility for their cases by filing paperwork directly in the Courtroom; and then either obtains a settlement on terms favorable to the tenant, or defends eviction trials when a settlement cannot be reached.
“Meeting a tenant at nine in the morning and successfully defending them at trial that same day, often before noon, is one of the greatest challenges of my legal career,” said Matthis. “But it is also an incredibly rewarding experience. The people I help are poor, usually scared, almost always severely outmatched by their landlord’s attorney, and undoubtedly on the brink of homelessness. Many have lost hope altogether. The free service I get to provide is often the difference for these tenants between a life at home, and a life in the streets.”
Matthis has succeeded in sealing from public view the eviction records of every individual and family he has represented as part of the BASTA Universal Long Beach program; which protects tenant credit scores from being harmed and prevents future potential landlords from finding out about the case. Many of Matthis’ BASTA Universal clients get to stay in their current homes as a result of Matthis’ representation. The tenants who cannot stay or don’t want to almost all benefit from between 30 and 60 additional days to move. Further, Matthis routinely convinces landlords to forgive large amounts of back rent and legal fees for relocating tenants who can then use their rent savings to secure another home.
Matthis is a resident of the City of Long Beach where he’s defended low income tenants since 2017. Every tenant he defends he sees not just as a client, but a neighbor. “Long Beach is easily one of the best communities I’ve ever called home, and I’m always looking for ways to give back,” said Matthis. “The citizens of Long Beach and the South Bay deserve access to a public defender for evictions, so I try to embody the spirit of public defense in my work.”
WHAT: Members of the press are invited to observe Matthis and the other BASTA Universal attorneys in action.
WHERE: Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, 275 Magnolia Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802
WHEN: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 TIME: 8:30 a.m.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: It is requested that no film or photographs be taken inside the Courthouse out of respect for the confidentially of BASTA Universal’s clients. However, Matthis and other BASTA Universal attorneys will be available for interview, as well as any BASTA Universal clients who agree to be interviewed.