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Bright Spot: Chicago, IL | Eviction PreventionSeptember 20, 2019
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Deborah’s Place, an organization in Chicago, IL, that operates Permanent Supportive Housing among other services, has a mission of empowering women to take back and maintain control over their lives. When the organization discovered that its housing program resulted in a 10% rate of eviction per year, Deborah’s place determined that evicting tenants back into homelessness defeated their mission. The organization’s operations were actually getting in the way of ending homelessness.
While there would still be times when eviction was necessary, staff members Deborah’s Place aimed to limit those instances to only the most extreme cases. To implement the aim, staff created a standardized internal eviction prevention program to move clients through before pursuing the legal eviction process. Once implemented, the organization saw an immediate drop in eviction rates from about 10% to 1% in the first year.
Key Action: Create an internal eviction prevention process
The first step toward creating the process was educating the organization’s executive leadership and Board of Directors to help them understand why a change was needed. Leadership needed to understand what an eviction prevention program was, how it applied to permanent supportive housing programs, and the benefit of eviction prevention to the organization.
Once leadership was onboard, Deborah’s Place staff created an Eviction Prevention Committee containing both staff members and tenants to develop an eviction prevention process. Understanding that If everyone involved was not on the same page in implementing a standardized process it would not be successful, the committee set to work writing clear policy. Additionally, the committee formed a Tenant Advocacy group so that tenants not facing eviction
could support and represent tenants that were facing eviction. Instead of immediately evicting clients with lease violations, the committee structured the following process:
- When a lease violation occurs, a property manager fills out a standard eviction form. The form is then sent to the tenant, the tenant’s case manager, and Tenant Advocacy group, and the COO of Deborah’s House.
- The tenant may select a Tenant Advocate to assist them in representing their case to the Eviction Prevention Committee.
- The tenant and advocate present the case to the Eviction Prevention Committee and awaits the committee’s feedback.
- Should the committee proceed with an eviction recommendation, it must provide written justification for supporting the recommendation.
- The committee’s recommendation is brought to the Supportive Housing Program Manager and COO of Deborah’s Place for final decision.
- Should the Supportive Housing Program Manager and COO decide agree that an eviction is necessary, they must move forward with a formal eviction process that follows all state and local laws.
Key Action: Implement the eviction prevention process
Prior to implementation of the process, the organization moved to evict tenants as soon as lease violations warranted it. Changing the culture of how staff thought of evictions was therefore key in making sure the new process stuck.
Deborah’s Place’s recommendation for implementing an Eviction Prevention Program relies on time and good communication. The staff allowed the time for both staff and tenants to work together to form a process both could live with, and made sure to communicate the new policy clearly to staff and tenants alike a number of times. To ensure the new process was implemented consistently,
Property Management ran monthly reports to check the rent delinquency status of all tenants, and to share that information with case management teams. In addition, the reports were reviewed in monthly in-person meetings between property management and case management staff.
Of a 129-unit building, Deborah’s Place had about a 10% eviction rate per year before implementing the Eviction Prevention Program. Since the implementation of the program, eviction rates are around 1% per year and have maintained that rate year over year.
Fail forward moments
- This process was designed for single-site projects. It might require some tweaking in order to adapt it to scattered-site projects.
- Sometimes preventing a client’s eviction meant putting the client on a plan of correction. This required Deborah’s Place to come up with a process by which a tenant could receive extra support for a limited amount of time.
WAnt more information?
Check out a video on Deborah’s Place Eviction Prevention Program