Triad tenant rights advocacy group Housing Justice Now is changing its approach to how it helps those facing eviction. The organization will now focus on preemptive strategies and helping people before they get to court.
The wells of financial assistance for renters and eviction protection measures that sprang up during the pandemic have all but dried up. But even while some of these mechanisms were active, evictions continued in Forsyth County.
And they seemingly haven't slowed down. According to court documents from late last year, the magistrate's office saw over 500 eviction cases in a span of just two weeks.
Dan Rose, Housing Justice Now organizer, says small, local nonprofits are one of the few options available for people facing eviction who are looking for help and education on navigating the legal process. He’s frustrated not only at the government but also at large nonprofits which he feels should be doing more.
“You know, we get to a point where we’re like, ‘Wait a minute — these are organizations with seven-figure budgets that are throwing their hands up and say “Go call this grassroots organization with zero budget,”’” says Rose.
Rose says Housing Justice Now can’t continue to “pick up the slack” and is changing its approach. Its small claims court support is ending, and the eviction hotline will now become a tenant information hotline.
This distinction means more focus on preemptive actions, and building support in multiple communities.
Rose says this metaphor sums it up:
“The hotline work is like trying to pull bodies that are drowning out of the water — you might be able to rescue someone and get them to shore, and then the next thing you know, you turn around, and there's three more bodies floating downstream,” says Rose. “And, you know, you will just eventually run out of energy to be pulling those bodies out. So, you have to figure out who's throwing those bodies in upstream. And you'd have to work on stopping them at the source, right?”
Rose says the health of Housing Justice Now’s volunteer network is strong, and he’s seeing continued growth.
Short-term goals for the organization include pushing for right to council for tenants, as some cities like Cleveland and Baltimore have done. Other goals include stopping rent increases, improving housing conditions, and educating the public on how to build collective power to advocate for themselves.