Milwaukee and state officials launch EvictionFreeMKE

By Ana Martinez-Ortiz

The goal of EvictionFreeMKE is to level the playing field and change the landscape for tenants, said Colleen Foley, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

As a child, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley has been evicted from his home on several occasions. Evictions are hard on everyone, but especially children, who may not understand what is going on.

“It’s important to remember how damaging an eviction can be for families,” Crowley said. “Often it’s not just a singular event, but rather a snowball of negative events that can lead to family homelessness and other bad outcomes. “

Crowley shared his experience with the eviction at a press conference commemorating the launch of the EvictionFreeMKE Right to Counsel space on Thursday, October 14.

The EvictionFreeMKE Right to Counsel space is located at Legal Aid Society, 728 N. James Lovell St.

EvictionFreeMKE is a pilot program funded by Milwaukee County, City of Milwaukee, and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. It provides legal representation to county residents facing eviction who fall under the 200% federal poverty guidelines.

“When someone has a lawyer in deportation court, they are 90% more likely to have the case dismissed or delayed,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

“Our goal is really simple,” said Colleen Foley, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee. “And this is to level the playing field and change the landscape of evictions laid bare by Matthew Desmond in the book” Evicted “.

Together, we will change that narrative for our city and make it a healthier and safer community for all. “

Senator Tammy Baldwin, who spoke at the press conference, noted that in Milwaukee County, less than 3% of tenants have legal representation in court when facing an eviction while more 50% of owners have legal representation.

“Representation often makes the difference between health and homelessness for so many families,” she said. “When someone has a lawyer in the eviction court, they are 90% more likely to see the case dismissed or at least delayed. “

When that happens, families can stay home and get the help they need, Baldwin said.

Amy Lindner is President and CEO of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. In 2019, United Way set a goal of ending family homelessness in its region by 2025, Lindner said. So much happened during this time, she noted, and people and organizations really came together.

“When you can’t rely on a roof over your head at night, it creates more stress,” says David Crowley, Milwaukee County Manager. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ort

Thanks to this collaboration, United Way is two years ahead of its goal, she said, and is on track to end family homelessness by 2023.

“Housing safety is a key determinant of the health of residents of Milwaukee County,” Crowley said. “When you can’t rely on a roof over your head at night, it causes more stress, more anxiety and a powerful contributor to the poor health disparities we see in our County Milwaukee.”

In addition to free legal advice, families facing eviction will be able to use “Evi”, a navigation tool designed to connect individuals to eviction support and prevention resources, Foley said. It is an extension of Centraide’s Safe and Stable Homes Initiative.

“When someone has a lawyer up front when facing an eviction, he is informed of his rights and obligations and this will be useful for the current crisis but also in the long term so that he is better equipped to deal with the challenges they and their families face, ”Foley said.

Common Council Chairman Cavalier Johnson also spoke at the press conference.

Baldwin added, “This pandemic has made it clear that we must continue to push for reforms and ensure housing security for all Americans. The right to counsel will ensure that families facing eviction know their options, have legal representation on their side and are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

To access EvictionFreeMKE, go to www.evictionfreemke.org or call 414-892-7368. Companies can add the “Evi” tool to their website at www.evictionfreemke.org/partners.

Officials cut the tape from the EvictionFreeMKE Right to Counsel space. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

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