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ABLE Partners with Dayton Area Community Action Agency to Address Housing Crisis

Community Action Agencies (CAAs) across the country have been fighting inequities and empowering people living in poverty since the 1960s, and share a similar history and mission with legal aid organizations like Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. That’s why we often partner with CAAs — including the Miami Valley Community Action Partnership (MVCAP) in the greater Dayton area — to address the unique economic and legal needs of low-income individuals and families in our service areas.

We started collaborating with MVCAP in October 2021 as a response to the housing instability crisis that has affected tenants living in Darke, Greene, Montgomery, and Preble counties for years, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Local families and individuals continue to face unaffordable, rising rent costs, exorbitant fees for paying their rent late, and unequal representation in eviction court proceedings.

“Our housing initiative with MVCAP aims to alleviate the financial burden, stress, and instability that accompany an eviction action,” says ABLE Senior Attorney, Debra Lavey.

Utilizing federal Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funding, MVCAP can provide eligible clients with vital rental assistance, including covering back rent, reasonable late fees, the landlord’s attorney fees in housing court, and three months of future rent, while ABLE can represent low-income tenants with eviction matters at no cost. The partnership works as a two-way referral process where ABLE’s clients can be screened for eligibility of MCVAP’s emergency rental assistance, and clients of MCVAP can be referred for free legal assistance from ABLE. Since the partnership’s inception, ABLE has assisted over 157 tenants and their families.

This project shows the power of community partnerships that leverage legal services with agency resources to effectively respond to urgent community needs like the housing insecurity caused by soaring rents.  

Decades of Community-Led Impact
Created through the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, the concept of community action was a key factor in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, as well as the advocacy work spearheaded by civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Almost 60 years later, more than 1,000 local, private, non-profit, and public agencies exist throughout the country, promoting programs and projects that support self-sufficiency, shared knowledge and resources, and resiliency among low-income communities.  

In Ohio, CAAs assist and work with community members in all 88 counties of the state, serving low-income children, families, and seniors. For more information about the history and impact of CAAs in Ohio, visit

To learn more about ABLE’s collaboration with MVCAP or to seek rental assistance, visit To apply for free legal assistance from ABLE, call the Legal Aid Line at 888-534-1432.

About the author

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) is a non-profit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.