Pima County’s Emergency Eviction Legal Services Program Wins National Award

The National Association for County Community and Economic Development gave Pima County a 2022 Award of Excellence for its innovative program providing legal services for tenants in eviction proceedings.

The county’s Emergency Eviction Legal Services program, or EELS, which has been operating since August 2021, aims to improve tenants’ access to justice while also connecting tenants and landlords to services that seek to ensure that residents stay securely housed.

Pima County won the NACCED award in the “Homeless Coordination/Assistance” category. Staff from the county’s Community and Workforce Development Department, which oversees the program, picked up the award Sept. 21 during NACCED’s 2022 annual conference in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“EELS helps level a historically uneven playing field in court, increasing access to justice for tenants facing eviction,” said Andrew Flagg, a deputy director in the county’s Community and Workforce Development Department.

“Moreover, it is cost-effective. According to Innovation for Justice’s Cost of Eviction Calculator, the annual monetary cost of eviction in Pima County is enormous — $103,265,349. Interventions that are effective in stopping preventable evictions can reduce that cost, to say nothing of avoiding the human toll created by a loss of housing.”

A key component of EELS is making legal counsel available to tenants facing eviction.

Flagg said that in 2020 in Pima County Consolidated Justice Court, 79 tenants were represented in eviction cases by outside counsel; in 2019, the number was 56.  But during the first 12 months of the EELS program, 233 households received full representation through EELS alone, triple the most recent years’ numbers. Another 790 households, Flagg said, benefited from a consultation with counsel.

“This indicates EELS is improving access to justice for tenants,” Flagg said.

NACCED also recognized additional innovative services provided by EELS, including escalated rent assistance for landlords who postpone eviction and its use of hotel space to temporarily house families who would otherwise be homeless immediately after an eviction.

“EELS is utilizing a block of rooms at a local hotel, with on-site case management, for households that would otherwise face homelessness after eviction,” Flagg said. “We prioritize families and those who have compromising conditions or other circumstances that make traditional shelters not appropriate for them. This allows us to address the end of the eviction continuum with a resource that hasn’t been available through the county before.”

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button