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About the Your Way Home Eviction Prevention Research Study

In 2016, Your Way Home began a research study to learn how it might expand its impact to include serving people before they became homeless, at the time they are facing eviction.  

Through a partnership with the HealthSpark Foundation, Your Way Home and a core team of cross-sector leaders evaluated the resources currently available for eviction prevention in Montgomery County, the data to support the need for this type of intervention, and promising eviction prevention program models from across the country. Through this study, Your Way Home discovered the following:

 -It is estimated that between 5,000- 15,000 households face eviction or are unable to pay their rent each year in Montgomery County[1]

-Of the 66 zip codes in Montgomery County, 60% of evictions are concentrated in two zip codes: 19401 (Norristown) and 19464 (Pottstown).[2]

-There is currently no program in Montgomery County that can provide both financial assistance and legal representation to prevent evictions, particularly to moderate-income households who are significantly housing-cost burdened (above 125% of the poverty guideline but paying over 50% of their income towards rent). Most tenants use pro se representation during eviction hearings, and most legal evictions are due to nonpayment of rent. [3]

-Evictions disproportionately affect women, households with children, and African Americans.[4] 

-Evictions are often the cause of poverty and job loss, not a result of them. Once evicted, most households are forced to find more expensive and lower quality housing due to the negative impact that an eviction has on one’s credit and rental history.[5]

-Essential components of successful court-based eviction prevention models across the country include: day-of, onsite services; access to financial assistance; and access to staff trained in local landlord-tenant law.[6]

The findings from this study mirror many of the challenges and recommendations from the Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Summit. For example, the tenants facing eviction are often not income-qualified to receive representation from Legal Aid but do not know about or earn enough to hire a Modest Means lawyer, low-income tenants do not have access to simple self-representation materials or landlord-tenant law; are scared of appearing in court due to other legal issues or prior history; or do not have the ability to meet with a lawyer during regular work hours prior to their hearing.

Second, through our partnership with the Bar Association, we’ve learned that there are many attorneys available in Montgomery County to provide pro bono representation, but many are unsure of how they might connect with meaningful volunteer opportunities. This project provides that opportunity and is connected to a larger social impact initiative that we believe would be compelling to many attorneys in the county.

The overlap between the “Access to Justice” work and Your Way Home’s research has allowed us to build a partnership to collaboratively and creatively develop the pilot program described below. 
 

About the Eviction Prevention and Intervention Coalition

The Eviction Prevention and Intervention Coalition (EPIC) is a 6-month pilot project designed to stabilize vulnerable families and individuals in Montgomery County who are facing eviction by providing them with free legal representation and social services on the day of their eviction hearing. Additionally, the program will provide limited financial assistance to prevent evictions, and referrals to the long-term financial and social supports needed to prevent future housing instability.EPIC is the result of a transformational cross-system partnership between the following organizations:

·       Montgomery Bar Association

·       Montgomery Bar Foundation

·       Montgomery County Courts

·       The Montgomery County Foundation

·       Montgomery County Office of Housing and Community Development/ Your Way Home

·       Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Guiding Principles

EPIC was designed to address the significant and debilitating impact that evictions have on vulnerable populations and those living in poverty. EPIC expands upon the work of Your Way Home to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in Montgomery County and the goals of the Access to Justice Summit by increasing collaboration between legal and human services. The program is designed to reflect the overarching values and principles of Your Way Home, including:

·       Progressive engagement: Consumers are given just as much services and support as they need to succeed, in order to preserve costly interventions like subsidized housing for the families with significant and lasting barriers to housing stability. Case managers rely first on the client’s own resources and networks to solve financial crises, and to use system resources only as needed.

·       Housing first: Housing first is the philosophy that people need a safe, stable place to sleep before they can take advantage of the community, health, and financial services that they may need to prevent future housing instability.

·       Client choice:  Clients are provided options and recommendations that guide and inform their choices, as opposed to rigid decisions about what they need.

Program Components

EPIC is a program that combines the services and resources of many partners to address both the legal and the social services needs of its target population. During this pilot project, services will be coordinated in the following way:

  • Free, limited legal representation is provided through the coordination of pro bono attorneys and paralegals. 
  •  Legal training for volunteer lawyers, paralegals, and social service staff is provided by the Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania. 
  • Court administration is supported by the Montgomery County Courts. This includes assistance in modifying the scheduling of landlord-tenant hearings in the Norristown Magisterial District Court that is host to the pilot project, and liaising with the Judge and President Judge. The Courts are also providing on-site meeting space for the tenants and the EPIC staff.
  •  General program management is provided by Your Way Home/ Montgomery County Office of Housing and Community Development. Your Way Home staff will oversee all aspects of the project, including policies and procedures, orientation of volunteers, social services partner oversight, grants, and reporting. 
  • On-site social servicesThe social services partner will provide case management services to prevent the eviction in the short term, and to connect the household to the community supports necessary to maintain housing stability in the future. The social services partner will provide assessment and referral and financial assistance when available. 
  •  Distribution of self-representation materials and landlord-tenant law will be made available through a partnership with the Housing Equality Center. The HEC will be publishing a landlord-tenant law handbook, and Your Way Home is a distribution partner. 

 


[1] Your Way Home’s primary federal funder, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, restricts most of its funding for homeless services to those who meet the federal definition of “literally homeless,” which includes: persons living in a place not meant for human habitation, persons sleeping in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program, or persons living in a hotel/ motel paid for by a charitable organization or other public entity. However, about 50% of callers to Your Way Home’s homeless hotline are living in their own unit and facing eviction, or otherwise do not fit the federal definition of “literal homelessness.”
[2]This estimate is based on data from three sources: the Your Way Home Call Center hotline, PA 211, and the Montgomery County Community Connections office. An unduplicated count is unavailable at this time.
[3] Data source: Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
[4] “Eviction Prevention Research Project,” sponsored by Your Way Home and the HealthSpark Foundation. Barbara Poppe & Associates, 2017. Available on YourWayHome.org.
[5] Desmond, Matthew. 2016. Evicted: Power and Profit in the American City. New York: Crown.
[6] Desmond, Matthew. 2016. Evicted: Power and Profit in the American City. New York: Crown.
[7] “Eviction Prevention Research Project,” sponsored by Your Way Home and the HealthSpark Foundation. Barbara Poppe & Associates, 2017. Available on YourWayHome.org.

 

Your Way Home System and Partnership Update