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Help UM Law Students Fight for Mississippi Families

Raised toward our $40,000 Goal
25 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on March 10, at 11:59 PM CST
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Help UM Law Students and Faculty Fight for Mississippi Families

Jordan Hughes (second from left), research counsel for UM's Low-Income Housing Clinic, stands with Sunset Village residents outside the Leflore County Courthouse after a hearing for their case in October. Photo courtesy Nick Judin/Mississippi Free Press. Standing Up for the Rights of Mississippians

The University of Mississippi School of Law’s Housing Clinic has taken on a tragic case with 50 clients. For our students to help these low-income Mississippi residents and fight for their rights in court, we need your support!

On Aug. 30, a mother and her 5-year-old daughter died due to gas leaks at their apartment in Cleveland, Mississippi. When authorities responded to the deaths at the Sunset Village apartment complex, they found such unsafe conditions that they immediately evacuated the other residents until gas leaks and other issues could be repaired.

Entire families were moved into single, small motel rooms while the Ohio-based apartment management company promised it would repair the apartments to make them safe to live in. Residents say that hasn’t happened, and they continue to pay monthly rent on apartments that are not fit for habitation.

Many of the Sunset Village apartments still have serious problems: no power, no heat, no gas, no running water and are covered in mold. The residents feared for the safety of their families if they came back to live in these conditions, so UM Law students and faculty members got involved to help.

The School of Law’s Low-Income Housing Clinic has taken on 50 of these clients pro bono, successfully filing motions to enjoin the management company to continue to pay for relocation to hotels and provide meals as residents pay the company rent for the housing that has been made inaccessible to them.

Desiree Hensley, director of UM's Low-Income Housing clinic, speaks with one of her Sunset Village clients. Photo courtesy Nick Judin.Families without reliable shelter constantly move from one place to another, making it difficult for parents or caregivers to maintain steady employment. Without money coming in for rent or groceries, children are unable to focus in school, instead worrying about where their next bed or meal will come from. However, permanent housing that is hazardous and unhealthy also negatively impacts families, often resulting in injury and long-term illness, increased medical expenses and lost time from work and school – losses that can have lasting social and personal consequences.

Recognizing that safe housing is the anchor for families and communities, the University of Mississippi School of Law Low-Income Housing Clinic provides a much-needed service in the state by advocating for lower-income families struggling to stay in their homes while also ensuring those homes are safe and healthy.

Despite incremental wins by the UM Low-Income Housing Clinic in Bolivar County court, some Sunset Village residents and their children are being forced to return to apartments that remain unsafe. This is the largest case the Low-Income Housing Clinic has ever tackled, and the costs – which far exceed the clinic’s annual budget – are adding up: filing fees, depositions, travel to court in the Delta from our home base in Oxford, and expert witnesses.

"Our Sunset Village clients will spend the holiday season crowded in inadequate motel rooms, cut off from the apartments they pay for," said Assistant Professor Desiree Hensley, the director of the Low-Income Housing Clinic. "This is an emergency, and we need your help to help these families! Your gifts today could help the Low-Income Housing Clinic pay for the costs associated with expert witnesses, a deposition or a tank of gas for our student workers to travel from Oxford to Cleveland and back."

For our law students, fighting for the rights of ordinary Mississippians against an out-of-state company with far more financial resources is a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity. For our UM School of Law, this case proves our commitment to serving our state by providing access to justice.

Please help the Low-Income Housing Clinic fight for justice for Mississippians! Make a gift today!

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50 Clients

This is the largest case UM's Low-Income Housing Clinic has ever tackled. We're representing 50 clients -- at no cost to them -- in their fight for safe housing. Help us stand up for them with a $50 gift.


Filing Fees

It can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 in fees to file a lawsuit. The Low-Income Housing Clinic will be doing this for each of our 50 clients. Sponsor the fees with a gift of $100!


From Oxford to Cleveland

Ole Miss School of Law faculty and students working for the Low-Income Housing Clinic have already made the trip from Oxford to Cleveland and back again many times. When this case goes to trial, they will make this 200-mile round trip many more times, and will have to book overnight accommodations. The cost of just one of these trips can run around $350. Help them serve their clients by sponsoring one of their overnight visits!


One Month's Pay

Each student worker for the Low-Income Housing Clinic is paid $500 per month. Given how many hours they dedicate to these cases, working for the clinic is definitely a labor of love for these students, many of whom go on to work in public interest law once they graduate. Give $500 to cover one student's salary for one month!


Dozens of Depositions

The cost of producing just one deposition, in labor and fees, could be as much as $1,200. In a case like this one with 50 clients, the Low-Income Housing Clinic will conduct dozens of depositions. Sponsor the cost of one of these vital pieces of our case!


Expert Testimony

Expert witnesses are often used in lawsuits, and these professionals must be paid for their expertise and their time. We estimate that in this case, expert witnesses are crucial, but will cost at least $2,000 per client.

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