By Mark Waterfill, 2019 Indianapolis Bar Foundation President
In 2018, the Indianapolis Bar Foundation (IBF) awarded its $50,000 Impact Fund Grant to Indianapolis Legal Services (ILS), an outstanding organization that provides legal services to the poor and indigent. Recently, attorney Michael Hurst reported the group’s progress and use of that grant to create a new program to help people avoid eviction. The presentation was thoughtful and passionate. The program is doing wonders to help people in Indianapolis avoid the plight of becoming homeless.
The ILS Eviction Avoidance Program (EAP) has had 172 clients. More than 60 were families or single parents with young children. An additional 28 were clients with mental illness. Eleven cases involved clients who were domestic violence survivors. Another 17 had a disability or suffered from a chronic illness. Eleven cases involved a client with a criminal history. Another 15 involved a client with a history of evictions. Twelve cases involved a client with a history of homelessness.
Michael has been able to establish a rapport with Small Claims Court judges across Marion County who have come to value his efforts to keep people in their homes. Michael poignantly relayed a story where a bailiff called him to the side and thanked him for the work he was doing for people who otherwise would have no legal representation when facing eviction.
In one recent case, a local homeless service provider referred a client to the EAP when the client received a notice of eviction for disruptive behavior. The client had been homeless for more than 40 years prior to being housed, and the property manager alleged that he had made multiple violations of rules and regulations, largely associated with his ongoing alcohol abuse. The client needed supportive services from a third-party provider, but that provider withdrew services, leaving a gap. The EAP worked with the referring agency, the property manager and the court, to secure the client an additional 60 days in his current housing while service providers worked with him to help him address his ongoing issues and, failing that, to find him a new placement so that he did not end up back on the street.
In another matter, an elderly tenant lost her husband in the same year she also lost one source of income supporting her housing. The client fell behind in rent and was facing eviction. The client’s health provider referred her to the EAP, which worked closely with her to find financial resources for a possible “pay and stay” arrangement with the landlord. The EAP also negotiated a payment arrangement for her to catch up her arrears in multiple payments. When she missed one of the payments, the EAP negotiated with the landlord for additional time. She was able to pay what she owed, and the case was dismissed. The client was thereafter able to negotiate for early termination of her lease and move into an affordable senior housing program.
In another case, a young single mother of two children was facing eviction after her separation from an abusive partner who was the family’s sole source of income. The Indiana Department of Child Services referred her to the EAP, which convinced the landlord to postpone the eviction and continue the possession hearing while also working with DCS to cover her back rent. The family was able to stay housed and the case was dismissed.
The work of ILS and its outstanding attorney, Michael Hurst, is vital and important. The Impact Fund Grant provided by the IBF last year has dramatically improved the lives of people in Central Indiana who might otherwise be homeless. We are blessed to support such a worthwhile project. Learn more about the Impact Fund Grant at indybar.org/ibfgrants and keep an eye out in the coming months for information on this year’s recipient.