2 Indiana courts receive funding to tackle eviction problem

Indiana is among eight states receiving grants in connection with the launch of the National Center for State Courts’ Eviction Diversion Initiative, which is focused on strengthening efforts to prevent evictions and improve housing stability.

The grants, announced Wednesday, are being funded largely by a $10 million gift from the Wells Fargo Foundation. In Indiana, Allen Superior Court and Lawrence Township Small Claims Court are the recipients of the EDI grant money and, in the first round of funding, will be receiving two-year grants of $164,040 and $492,300, respectively.

“Over the past two years, our community has faced challenges that we never imagined,” Allen Superior Judge Jennifer DeGroote said in a news release. “The pandemic aggravated already serious problems posed by the number of evictions we experience in Allen County. Building a dedicated Eviction Diversion Initiative will benefit tenants and landlords, keep more people in their homes, and diminish the profound impact on lives that can result from a loss of housing.”

Other states participating in the grant program are Alaska, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Tennessee and Wisconsin along with the District of Columbia.

In 2016, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis were ranked 13th and 14th, respectively, on the list of top evicting cities in the United States, based on data compiled by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. Since March 15, 2020, Indiana has tallied 102,987 eviction filings.

The grant funds will go toward hiring and supporting facilitators in the courts. Those individuals will provide tenants and property owners with information about eviction diversion programs and emergency rental assistance as well as help connect them to other resources in their local communities.

Also, grant recipients across the eight states will be sharing information and ideas. The facilitators will be convening regularly to receive training and discuss what they are doing in their courts.

In addition, the courts will be collecting data that will be analyzed by Stout Risius Ross LLC to quantify the impact diversion efforts are having on housing stability.

“Developing a dedicated Eviction Diversion Initiative evolved out of necessity, resulting from long time eviction challenges,” Lawrence Township Judge Kimberly Bacon said in a news release. “The loss of shelter impacts every other aspect of one’s life. The Eviction Diversion Initiative will be beneficial to both tenants and landlords in many creative ways, providing real solutions to eviction challenges.”

The EDI Advisory Council reviewed applications and selected the courts for the grant program. Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush is one of the council members.

NCSC president Mary McQueen said in a statement that the Wells Fargo Foundation gift will help courts and communities overcome the housing challenges that developed from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By equipping courts with the needed resources and strategies to prevent avoidable evictions and promote housing stability, we’re working to permanently change how courts approach housing problems in a sustainable way that fairly supports all parties,” McQueen added. “The harm of eviction disproportionately falls on communities of color, and courts play an important role in helping vulnerable communities obtain access to services needed to resolve the immediate crisis and move toward housing stability.”

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