Holton and McCoy discuss funding increase for Eviction Diversion Program during meeting with Durham officials
Professor Charles Holton, director of the Civil Justice Clinic, and Supervising Attorney Jesse McCoy discussed Durham’s eviction problem with Durham Mayor Steve Schewel and Chair of County Commissioners Wendy Jacobs, along with other members of the Durham City Council and County Commission, during a January 9 meeting.
Durham has the highest rate of evictions per population size of any major municipality in North Carolina, with more than 900 new eviction cases filed every month. The Civil Justice Clinic, working in partnership with Durham Legal Aid, defends about 50 of these cases per month, while the vast majority of the other 850 cases go undefended. Holton and McCoy discussed the consequences of eviction in terms of homelessness, property loss, breakdown of social support structures, adverse credit reports and inability to obtain future housing, and numerous other problems affecting not only the tenants themselves, but the broader community as well.
Holton and McCoy described the pilot Eviction Diversion Program, developed at Duke Law and co-operated by the Civil Justice Clinic and Durham Legal Aid, as a way of addressing the eviction problem and forestalling these consequences. They asked the Durham city and county governments to fund additional legal representation for tenants in eviction matters, so that Legal Aid and the Civil Justice Clinic can have additional staffing to represent more clients. They also asked that additional funds be designated for emergency rental relief by the Durham Department of Social Services.
“Our requests were met with very favorable response by the city and county officials, who seemed genuinely interested in the problem and in figuring out the best ways to deal with it,” McCoy said. “They were very complimentary of the Eviction Diversion Program.”