When tenants receive an eviction summons, fears of homelessness become real — especially when young children are involved. Likewise, landlords become stressed without rental income as they risk missed mortgage payments.
Community Law Program (CLP) knows the eviction cycle well and witnessed it more as job losses mounted due to COVID-19.
Concerned members of the St. Petersburg Bar Association formed CLP in 1989 to address the civil legal demands of the Pinellas community’s disadvantaged population. Unfortunately, after CLP launched a successful pilot eviction mediation program in the 6th Judicial Circuit Court in 2019, they sidelined the program due to the pandemic.
“The idea started before the pandemic when we were concerned about improving outcomes for people facing eviction,” said CLP Executive Director Kimberly Rodgers. Because of the ongoing pandemic, Kimberly and her colleagues and partners wanted to restart the program virtually.
As a nonprofit organization that mitigates housing issues, CLP qualified for $349,442 in Pinellas CARES Nonprofit Partnership Fund grants. The fund was initiated by the Pinellas County government and managed by Pinellas Community Foundation (PCF) to distribute CARES Act dollars to eligible nonprofit organizations impacted by COVID-19.
The grants helped reorganize the program with collaborative partners to provide virtual mediation and other services, such as rental assistance and housing navigation. As a result, the Pinellas Eviction Diversion Program helped nearly 450 households avoid homelessness. “We weren’t the only program assisting people facing eviction, but we were unique in offering the mediation virtually,” said Kimberly.
To qualify for the program to avoid eviction, tenants must be Pinellas County residents with an annual income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. “The mere filing of a complaint can create a permanent public record that can cause future problems, such as making it more difficult for the tenant to find other housing,” said Kimberly.
Accordingly, the program spared many Pinellas residents a life-changing event. For more information, visit the Community Law Program website.
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