Durham program looks to aid those facing eviction
Posted June 12, 2018 7:03 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:14 a.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — With about 900 cases filed each month, Durham County has the highest eviction rate per capita in the state.
Families like the Mayos, locked out of their Durham townhouse after failure to pay the lease, say they are "terrified." Next door, Jeffry Sanchez Dela Cruz said, "I just feel trapped right now." The disabled Marine veteran moved to the Triangle last year. He says he has no car, no job and no place to live.
In both cases, the property changed hands, and the new owners said they simply picked up eviction proceedings that had already begun. In a statement, Real Estate Associates, Inc. said:
Real Estate Associates took over management of this property on May 23, 2018. We followed through on a court action that was initiated by the previous owner and management company, before our involvement with the property. The eviction is the result of a judge’s order to give the owner possession of the property.
That doesn't make it any easier for Sanchez Dela Cruz, who is sharing a hotel room with Jessica and Joey Mayo and their new baby.
"It's a little bit tight," Jessica Mayo said. "We don't want anyone to be out on the street or anything."
A first-of-its-kind program at the Duke Civil Justice Clinic is working with renters to help them avoid a similar fate.
"It's a problem, a multi-faceted problem," the clinic's Charles Holton said.
The Eviction Diversion Program, launched in Durham in September, provides those facing eviction with advice and support from emergency financial aid to legal counsel. So far, they have been able to help tenants avoid eviction in 79 percent of cases.
"Our goal is to cut back on the number of eviction cases that are filed and cut back on the displacement of families from their homes if at all possible," Holton said.