N.O. Eviction Diversion Project Wins Award
NEW ORLEANS — From the City of New Orleans:
Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that the First City Court Eviction Diversion Project has been selected as winner of the 2021 Legal Service Innovation Award from the Louisiana State Bar Association.
The award was presented to Chief Judge Veronica Henry on behalf of the exemplary collaboration with the City of New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services to provide on-demand legal assistance for tenants, an information desk for landlords and tenants, prioritization for tenants facing eviction for emergency rental assistance programs and early notification at the time of filing.
The City of New Orleans initiated the partnership in January 2021 and provided funding to Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) for legal aid and utilized U.S. Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Funds to cover rental arears thereby preventing evictions. Judge Henry played an invaluable role in the process, providing early notification at the time of filings.
“Congratulations to Chief Judge Veronica Henry; I am proud of the partnership with the City of New Orleans, First Circuit Civil Court and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services that led to a model Eviction Diversion Program which prevented hundreds of vulnerable households from being displaced through eviction,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many illegal evictions happening and we were fighting to make sure residents were armed with tools and services to prevent that from happening. I’m glad we have another tool in our toolbox to prevent evictions and keep people in their homes.”
“The unprecedented pandemic required an innovative approach to stabilizing housing. Even as we move on from the pandemic, we will use the same aggressive approach to prevent evictions and spare as many as possible from going through the very traumatic experience,” said Marjorianna Willman, Director of the Office of Housing Policy and Community Development.
The program has spared over 500 households from enduring the detrimental effects of eviction that can be life altering. Although an eviction moratorium was in place through Sept. 24, 2021, landlords continued to file for eviction throughout the pandemic for issues unrelated to nonpayment. Often the underlying reason for eviction was due to nonpayment and landlords agreed to stop the eviction process when offered the back due rent balance.
City of New Orleans staff combed through filings ahead of court dates and have been on-sight at the court along with SLLS attorneys to assist landlords and tenants in reaching a non-eviction resolution.