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How our Medical-Legal Partnership helped one family fight for fair housing

Eva had one too many scares. For months, she and her 6 kids suffered from chronic respiratory issues. Her youngest, two-year-old Ana Maria, was in the worst shape. After rushing Ana Maria to the emergency room for the third time, Eva came to People’s looking for relief. They met with multiple pediatric specialists, each who looked for the root cause of the family’s illness.

It became clear that an unsafe living condition, particularly mold, was endangering the family’s health. For help, the physicians called on Keegan Warren, JD, an attorney at the Austin Medical-Legal Partnership (AMLP).

The AMLP recognizes that good health depends on many factors outside of the exam room. Social and legal determinants of health – like housing and work conditions, or barriers to receiving disability benefits – effect health in tremendous ways, sometimes even more than the clinical care they receive. Often, a legal intervention is needed to address these health-harming situations. As part of the AMLP, attorneys are housed at People’s, and patients are referred to attorneys if they need legal help to improve their health.

Keegan learned that rains from Hurricane Harvey had flooded the family’s apartment, but property managers had not addressed the resulting mold infestation. Mold in the walls, floor, and furniture had contributed to debilitating – and dangerous – respiratory problems.

With Keegan’s help, the family took the apartment owners to court, which forced them to address the substandard conditions. Eva was assured that with the Keegan’s protection, the apartment owners would not evict the family or take any other retaliatory actions. As a result, the family was able to move to a new, clean apartment. The children’s health issues resolved slowly, and Eva’s family began the process of healing – this time, in a home with fresh air.

 

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