Ryan Sakoda, a Liman Public Interest Fellow at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, does a lot of work with defendants in the midst of a dispute over housing. As an attorney working in the public defender’s office in Boston, he frequently works to help clients who are facing eviction or who are having a hard time finding affordable housing because of a criminal record.
That’s why he wanted to volunteer to teach a session for the BBA’s Reentry Education program. During two recent sessions, Sakoda spoke to federal probationers and CHOICE participants about their options for getting into public housing in spite of their history.
“Many people that have contact with the criminal justice system are low-income, and so a lot of them do rely on housing assistance,” Sakoda said. “In order to move on with your life, housing is really the foundation to regain some stability and get past the contact with the criminal justice system.”
Sakoda said many of those with a criminal record get discouraged and do not apply for public housing, because they have heard about the difficulties from other people in a similar position or because they have applied before and been denied. During the training, Sakoda covered an applicant’s right to appeal the decision if they are denied housing, a step that he said many people do not take.
“The truth is that there just aren’t enough public interest lawyers to fully represent all the people that need this kind of legal assistance. That’s why I feel it’s so important that the BBA and other organizations put on these informational programs,” Sakoda said.