All states have social dilemmas. Some of these issues differ while others are equally present in multiple states throughout the country. “A social difficulty that needs to be addressed in numerous states, and is growing with no implemented solution, can become a national crisis,” said Denise Hamet, a pragmatic leader in city planning and economic development.

Ohio, as well as many states in the U.S., is currently attempting to address the prevalence of two issues related by cause-and-effect: evictions and homelessness.

Eviction is more often identified as a major cause of poverty, rather than a consequence of it. Eviction can lead to long-term housing problems. It can prevent individuals from qualifying for public housing or can damage their credit rating and can result in families having multiple moves. It can impact mental health, and it can create obstacles to success in school.

Studies have found evictions are highly concentrated in a few areas along patterns of racial residential segregation. Women are twice as likely to be evicted as men, and a renter’s likelihood of eviction increases with the number of children in the household.

In 2016, eviction judgments totaled almost 900,000 in the United States. With the numbers of evictions resulting in homelessness escalating, multiple groups are working towards creating effective and proactive prevention strategies to avert this national crisis.

What are the benefits of Eviction Prevention Strategies?

Creating and implementing eviction prevention strategies results in multiple benefits that prove to support stronger and healthier families and communities.

For families, eviction can negatively impact a child’s life in more ways than one. Eviction prevention can help. Academic success can be less impacted by keeping a child on a stable school schedule. An unchanging school schedule is a result of a stable housing situation, which can also benefit an individual’s health. Healthier citizens allow for health sectors and taxpayers to save funds.

Communities with low eviction rates are more stable, economically, and unitarily. San Jose, California, is focusing on these rates for communities that have high eviction numbers due to discrimination. Recently, city officials made the historical decision to establish new requirements for landlords: to deny a lease renewal; a landlord must be able to cite a reason. This new requirement will impact around 450,000 renters in San Jose.

Where is Ohio’s focus?

Ohio uses federal government grants to give public access to eviction prevention programs. These programs include assistance with paying rent, utility bills, and even a mortgage.

Non-profits are primary facilitators as well for proactively seeking eviction prevention methods. Ohio has a ten-year plan to end homelessness that is supported and acted on by a large portion of the state’s non-profits.

There is a high demand for aid in Ohio. Support is limited, so to prevent misuse of funds, an individual has to have an eviction notice. Only with the notice present can they apply for assistance.

The Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) is a popular program in Ohio that uses its funds to prevent homelessness by quickly re-housing people. This method could potentially sever the tie evictions have to homelessness.

Metaphorically, the ESG’s approach is to catch an individual before they fall into homelessness through a safety net of funding for individuals who cannot pay necessity bills. “The funds through the ESG are open to Ohio’s non-profits and social services who then siphon those funds to the individuals who are threatened by eviction,” stated Denise Hamet.

Another program in Ohio, The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), works to prevent eviction by providing funds to assist in paying utility bills. Other enterprising steps Ohio is taking towards eviction prevention include focusing on rehousing, landlord/tenant services, and case management.

Several cities in Ohio also have projects underway to reduce eviction, including Dayton and Cincinnati.

Mayor Nan Whaley, of the City of Dayton, Ohio recently formed a task force to study the issue of evictions in the city and make recommendations to reduce unnecessary evictions. The force includes about 15 members, including tenant focused organizations, landlord focused members, municipal court, common pleas court, and other related agencies like Dayton Power and Light. The group is just getting started, but has already identified a few focus areas, including data research. They will compile and review eviction data, such as the percentage of cases that are filed in the City have resulted in eviction. The group will also examine how can they have an influence early in the process to reduce evictions. They will examine opportunities to provide legal representation, and to have other preventative measures.

In Cincinnati, a community-partnered classroom research project was done to research eviction during 2014-2017. The research project was a product of research with Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc. (HOME), and the Legal Aid Society through The Cincinnati Project at the University of Cincinnati, and the work of six undergraduate students under the supervision Elaina Johns-Wolfe, M.A., Department of sociology, University of Cincinnati.

The City of Cincinnati recently provided specific funding to help address eviction, and also formed a task force to address eviction. They recently secured $403,000 in funding that will be distributed to existing organizations who will allocate the funding to tenants to prevent eviction.

The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts (Aftab Pureval) just announced his office received a grant to hire another lawyer for its help center to assist people dealing with evictions and debt collectors. His office is also launching a new website to help people write their own legal documents in landlord/tenant and creditor/debtor lawsuits. The project is in partnership with Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab and the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

Eviction is a growing and is long-term problem. It can only be address by successful collaboration of public and private organizations. Obtaining solid data is key, supported by more funding for prevention, coupled with policy changes. A key preventer is legal representation. Changing policy to entitle low income renters to have a publicly-funded attorney could make a huge change in the outcome of eviction cases. Adopting a just cause eviction ordinance would also protect all people who rent. This type of ordinance has been successfully adopted in a few cities.

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