LAOC's Eviction Prevention Project Gets Boost from Collaborators

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Winner of a 2018 Mayo Clinic Shared Value Award, the Eviction Prevention Project of Legal Assistance of Olmsted County (LAOC) is continuing its work in the community thanks to additional funding and the help of partners.

The project, which holds clinics on Mondays and Thursdays at the Olmsted County courthouse, offers free legal help to people in court facing eviction. Thanks to a newly awarded grant from Mayo for LAOC’s overall work, a portion will be used to staff the evictions clinic, with help from attorneys with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS), and members of the Mayo Clinic legal team, who are serving in a pro bono capacity. IBM attorneys are also contributing to the effort.

As of June 1, 90 of the 207 eviction cases scheduled at the Olmsted County courthouse received help from the evictions clinic. “This is what a legal aid organization needs to be doing,” said Karen Fairbairn Nath, executive director of LAOC. “There are so many people who are living one crisis from not being able to pay their landlord,” she said. Read more.

Legal Aid Speaks Out On Screening Inaccuracies Affecting Minneapolis Renters

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Luke Grundman, managing attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and other tenant advocates, have been working toward solutions to the affordable housing shortage in Minneapolis. They’re asking policymakers to overhaul the current tenant screening process, which frequently blocks low-income renters from finding an apartment. Inaccuracies about criminal records, credit history and evictions in a tenant’s screening report, for example, can mean the difference between getting an apartment or not. And fixing a mistake with one tenant screening agency doesn’t automatically resolve it with other agencies.

“It puts a lot of weight on the consumer or tenants to dispute reports, and a lot of tenants don’t have the time to do that,” Grundman said. “Their application has been denied and they’re waiting for this investigation to be conducted. … There’s no incentive for tenant screening organizations to get it right in the first place.” Read more in the Star Tribune.

MMLA's Executive Director Weighs In On Eviction Prevention

Drew Schaffer, executive director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, recently participated in an experts forum on the quandary of how to address evictions and what is being done to prevent them. The panel discussion was convened last month by Minnesota Lawyer Magazine and along with Schaffer, the stakeholders included Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General, John Guthmann, Second Judicial District Judge, Brittany Lewis, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, Colleen Ebinger, Family Housing Fund, and Joseph Abraham, Pergola Management. More information about each panelist, and their discussion, can be read at Minnesota Lawyer.

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Housing Court Project Study Shows How Legal Help Can Prevent Homelessness

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The cover story in this month’s Bench and Bar of Minnesota is proof positive that the Housing Court Project in Hennepin County is preventing homelessness and family instability on a regular basis. The article, authored by Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Luke Grundman, along with project colleagues Muria Kruger of Volunteer Lawyers Network and Tom Tinkham former Dorsey and Whitney trial partner, describes the project and a recent study examining its effectiveness.

For the past 18 years, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) and Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) have maintained a legal clinic at the Hennepin County Courthouse offering eviction advice and full representation, as well as help negotiating settlements and preparing expungement petitions. Recently, the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and the Pohlad Family Foundation have provided significant financial support to bolster this vital court project. The clinic is staffed by 11 attorneys from MMLA, and in 2017 alone, nearly 150 volunteer attorneys from VLN provided 1,400 hours of legal service.

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The study on the project’s impact compared results for tenants who were unrepresented to those who received limited advice or help and then to those who received full representation. Eleven random court calendar days were selected for review. Results demonstrated that those represented in eviction proceedings have better outcomes and those fully represented have even more positive outcomes. Read more in Bench and Bar of Minnesota.