The Chelsea Department of Housing and Community Development and Law Department held a press conference to announce the launching of a Housing Legal Clinic to assist residents facing eviction as the eviction moratorium is set to expire on Oct. 17.
Alex Train, director of Housing and Community Development, presided over the press conference. Other speakers were City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino, and Attorney Mark Rossi of Chelsea Legal Services, the legal team that will be working with city to assist local residents with their housing issues.
Train, who was exceptional in his role as moderator and thorough in his delivery of key information at the conference, said that the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread unemployment and financial hardships for many Chelsea residents.
“Come October 17 when the eviction moratorium is set to expire, we’re bracing for widespread evictions of renters in Chelsea,” said Train, adding that he expects the Chelsea Housing Court will be used as an instrument to displace members of the community.
Train said with the moratorium date coming, the City established the Chelsea Housing Legal Clinic “to provide low-and-moderate income residents with legal representation in Housing Court.”
Ambrosino, an attorney who studied law at Harvard, said he was excited about the start of the legal clinic “as a tool to help prevent displacement.”
The city manager said that even before COVID-19 struck, the city was in the midst of a housing crisis.
“And COVID has only served to exacerbate the problem,” added Ambrosino.
He said the City commenced its first round of rental assistance in response to the crisis. “With $1.25 million available thanks to the generosity of the Chelsea City Council, we were able to put in place a program that helped 300 Chelsea families,” said Ambrosino.
Ambrosino believes the Legal Clinic and its main role of giving legal assistance to tenants at-risk “will be especially effective.”
“I’m very grateful for our partnership with Mark Rossi and his firm in helping us launch this and I look forward to very favorable results,” said Ambrosino.
Watson Fisher said when residents contacted her department for legal assistance in court, she explained that “the problem for my office is that we don’t represent residents.”
“We found that there was no location in Chelsea to refer them to for housing representation, tenant representation, for any type of legal services,” said Watson Fisher.
Watson said after reaching out to Chelsea stakeholders, she and Train brought the idea of establishing a Chelsea Housing Legal Clinic to City Manager Ambrosino’s office. The City contracted with Chelsea Legal Services to launch the clinic.
“The Chelsea Housing Legal Clinic will be operated by Chelsea Legal Services on Arlington Street and Attorney Mark Rossi is here today to discuss the particulars of how to receive services at the clinic,” concluded Watson Fisher.
“COVID-19 threw all of us a curveball, particularly the most vulnerable in our city,” began Rossi.
“The goal of Chelsea Legal Services is to provide equal access to justice and the judicial system for the residents of Chelsea.”
Rossi commended the City of Chelsea for showing foresight and being pro-active in starting a Housing Legal Clinic.
“We are in this together: Chelsea Strong – and I am grateful for the opportunity to be of service to the community,” said Rossi.
He said residents can contact his office through the Eastern Region Legal Intake Help Line at 617-603-1700 or his office directly at 617-466-3037. Because of COVID-19, there are no walk-ins at the Chelsea Legal Services office and Rossi suggested calling in advance to make an appointment with his legal team.
Residents can also reach out to Attorney Rossi’s office online at its Website: www.chelsealegalservices.org,
(Information from the City of Chelsea press release was used in the compilation of this story).