Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing

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Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing thanks the seven judges who attended the Eviction Diversion Program open house Friday, November 2.

Judges and clerks involved in eviction court are able play an important role in creating alternatives to eviction, and we at LCBH appreciate the time and expertise of all who were able to attend.

The Eviction Diversion Program (EDP) is a pilot to help low- to moderate-income Chicagoans avoid potential eviction judgments by facilitating mutually beneficial agreements between tenants and landlords.

First, the pilot program will connect qualified clients to homelessness prevention funds. These funds can be used for rent arrearages to prevent eviction, for security deposits, and to cover first month’s rent for new apartments.

Case management is also part of the pilot program. Tenants will receive short-term, intensive case management services aimed at stabilizing the renters’ housing situation, addressing the underlying issues that led to the eviction, and educating the client on resources to utilize in the future prior to a housing crisis.

A third component of the program is resolution services. Case managers will work with tenants to advocate with their landlords for a mutually beneficial alternative to an eviction order.

Executive Director Mark Swartz discussing eviction court with Osher students at the LCBH office

Students in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute civic engagement program of Northwestern University received a "guided tour" and briefing session on eviction court October 18.

After observing part of the eviction court call at the Daley Center Thursday morning, the group of 16 adult learners debriefed the experience with Executive Director Mark Swartz and Supportive Services Director Jude Gonzales. The students remarked on the obvious disparity in legal representation. Their experience was in line with the recent Prejudged report finding that while 81% of landlords had attorneys, only 12% of tenants did. Students commented that they could see how this put tenants at a disadvantage in the court cases they observed.

Prejudged: The Stigma of Eviction Records

A new report by Housing Action Illinois and the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) explores how an eviction filing on the public record is a serious obstacle to finding housing for people whose cases did not result in them actually getting evicted. This is true even in cases where the tenant didn’t violate their lease in any way. Prejudged: The Stigma of Eviction Records shows that 39% of eviction cases filed in Cook County during the past four years did not result in an eviction order and/or other judgment against the tenant. The report recommends enacting state legislation that would hold eviction case records from public view until cases are completed to protect these individuals from unfair barriers to renting a home in the future.

"This is an issue that affects about 15,000 people in Cook County each year," estimates Mark Swartz, Executive Director of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing. "There is no judgment against them, but there is a filing on their record. When they go to rent, prospective landlords too often reject them based on screening reports that don’t reflect the outcome of a case."

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