Legal Aid Tackles Eviction Crisis
COVID-19 related hardships have left many Illinoisans struggling to make ends meet and unable to pay rent. According to Housing Action Illinois, there could be more than a half million renter households in Illinois at risk of eviction because of the economic impact of COVID-19.
Although Illinois and federal moratoriums have slowed the number of evictions, it doesn’t cancel out the rent due once the moratoriums end, leaving Illinois facing a looming eviction crisis.
In response, many IEJF-funded legal aid organizations have stepped up with programs providing renters with legal assistance and resources that can help keep them in their homes.
Here’s a rundown of how the legal aid community is tackling the eviction crisis – a big thanks to 2Civility for putting together this list!
- Eviction Prevention Project. In addition to representing tenants who have been illegally locked out of their apartments or those evicted during the pandemic, the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing’s initiative also focuses on eviction prevention. The goal is to assist tenants to negotiate repayment agreements with their landlords to prevent a surge in evictions once the moratoriums end.
- “Know Your Rights” Technology Tool. Rentervention is a free resource for Chicago renters facing housing issues. Through Rentervention, Renny the bot helps tenants diagnose their legal issues, become educated on their rights, connect with community resources, and choose the best option to solve their problem. Rentervention is a joint project of the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, and IL Legal Aid Online.
- Pandemic Pro Bono Eviction Project. Prairie State Legal Services (PSLS) created a pro bono project to maximize tenants’ chances of remaining in their homes. Attorney volunteers will advise families of their rights and available rental assistance and empower them to enter into agreements to help them keep their homes.
- Reviving an Old Program. The Chicago Bar Foundation has been working with Cook County, the Circuit Court of Cook County, and a coalition of legal aid partners to develop a county-wide Early Resolution Program for eviction and consumer debt cases. The program would combine community outreach and education, mediation, legal advice, and legal representation and provide a streamlined process for connecting self-represented litigants with resources at or before their first court date.