The work of Lake County and the Unmet Needs Committee since March 2020 was one of four communities featured in this April 27, 2021 article by the Urban Institute.
As part of the research, 47 states were surveyed and four states and local programs’ leadership (Lake County) were interviewed to better understand their design, implementation, and progress to date and to elevate lessons and insights for both practice and policy.
Here are a few excerpts from the article:
(Read the entire article here)
April 27, 2021
E V I C T I O N P R E V E N T I O N A N D D I V E R S I O N P R O G R A M S
Early Lessons from the Pandemic
In Colorado, the nonprofit COVID Eviction Defense Program (CEDP) was formed in March 2020 as the pandemic was just beginning. Although its core staff had already been practicing pro bono eviction defense law, several early signs—including messages on social media and results from early eviction risk models—convinced its founders to form a formal organization dedicated to eviction prevention. CEDP initially focused on providing legal services, publishing data and research, and advocating for policy change. CEDP later piloted a rental assistance fund.
In Colorado, CEDP coordinates with courts, local governments, and other nonprofits throughout the state. CEDP provides legal guidance to local nonprofit partners and direct legal assistance to tenants when cases cannot be resolved at the local level. It has also implemented a rental assistance pilot that consolidates past and future rent into a single check at reduced rates, streamlining the process and helping funding go further (Neumann, Gilman, and McKay 2020). It collects and analyzes eviction data and advocates for policy change across the state. This division of labor lets local partners focus on maintaining productive day-to-day relationships and move more complicated and potentially fraught negotiations to CEDP. As one local stakeholder put it, CEDP’s involvement provides the local effort some “legitimacy” in the eyes of the landlords.
The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project (CEDP), formed in March 2020, was designed to integrate previous mainstream eviction and homelessness prevention services in Colorado. CEDP connects renters who are facing financial hardship and are at risk of eviction to legal representation and other services, as well as a rental assistance innovation fund. CEDP also collects data, conducts and publishes research, and engages in policy advocacy. CEDP collaborates with community organizations and, in some counties, the local courts. To understand how this operates at the local level, we also interviewed representatives from two organizations involved in eviction prevention efforts in Lake County, Colorado.
In Lake County, Colorado, for instance, locally raised funds do not cover 100 percent of rent, but they are distributed more quickly than state funds, which are more generous but take longer. This state-level delay has meant that smaller landlords have tended to be more open to the continued use of local funds, while larger landlords, with other sources of regular cash flow, have tended to move to the state-funded programs.
Racial and Economic Equity
In Colorado, CEDP, and specifically the Lake County Unmet Needs Committee program, serves a large population of immigrants for whom English is their second language. Lake County conducts outreach in both Spanish and English and partners with organizations that have built deep trust with immigrant communities. For many tenants hesitant to access federal and state resources because of their immigration status, Lake County’s program provides the necessary bridge to their access.
In Lake County, it was vital that the Unmet Needs Committee conducted a needs assessment of the community before formally setting up its eviction diversion program. As Stephanie Cole, executive director of Full Circle of Lake County and member of the Lake County Unmet Needs Committee, explained, “Folks that had lost their job and didn’t have any access to unemployment, they were working under the table, they had major barriers or fears to accessing any government assistance. Very quickly, we realized that [our] focus needed to be on those left behind from our safety net… There’s still a large portion that’s totally left behind, so that was a driver of the design, was to bring a balance to the relief efforts.”