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Housing assistance programs struggle to reach tenants due to new court system

Eviction still.jpg
Posted at 5:11 PM, Apr 21, 2022

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Housing court's new data system has housing assistance organizations struggling to get tenants' information to assist those being evicted.

Marlon Floyd lives at the Saint Clair Place apartment where he was given an eviction notice.

“They gave me a handwritten notice for 30 days,” said Floyd.

After that notice, he heard nothing from the courts. Though Floyd has legal representation, many tenants in the Cleveland area don’t even know they can get that.

In Cleveland, families living below the federal poverty level are guaranteed free legal services through the right to council. According to the United Way of Greater Cleveland in 2021, the council was able to prevent 92% of eviction judgment cases. Also, 83% of right to council clients we able to obtain rental assistance.

Julie Wisneski is the Director of housing stability for United Way Greater Cleveland. They work with the courts to inform tenants about their rights in eviction and the resources available including the right to counsel.

“We were sending out individual outreach letters to folks who were named on an eviction filing. We were getting a number of people in through right to counsel,” said Wisneski.

But, there's one problem, the courts have put a new system in place which stopped producing that eviction filling list about three weeks ago.

“Without the list, we cannot provide adequate outreach to people and provide this to the DSA so that they cannot go into communities and we can't start our hyperlocal outreach,” said Wisneski.

Wisneski says every week they were reaching out to about 130 tenants, so over a span of three weeks, that’s more than 300 people that don’t know about the assistance they can receive and the options available.

“Whereas if you just get an eviction filing and no support, you might move to your cousin's house, you might move, you might sleep in your car. There are so many negative outcomes of just leaving,” said Wisneski.

They are not alone. Stephen Charron with the Cleveland Housing organization project has been battling the same thing.

“That information is so difficult to find, the new system that's in place is very finicky and particular,” said Charron.

They both reached out to the courts who have been responsive and cooperative telling them it’s their top priority.

News 5 also reached out to the courts who sent the following statement:

"Since Cleveland Municipal Court went live with the Odyssey case management system on 4/4/2022, we have been making periodic changes to our website to address the concerns of our users.  We will continue to modify the configuration as possible to satisfy the requests we receive.

It is the Court’s intention to have instructional papers posted on our website by next week to assist users in finding information."

For Wisneski and Charron, they just want the system fixed as soon as possible so they can continue to help tenants.

If you need eviction assistance or have questions you can contact the United Way of Greater Cleveland or the Cleveland Housing organization project.

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