Earlier this month a new Eviction Prevention Program Pilot kicked off through The Way Home. Partners of this pilot initiative include the Coalition for the Homeless, CSH, Harris County Community Services, Harris County Precinct 7, Texas Southern University’s Urban Research and Resource Center (URRC), and Barbara Poppe, who is the lead consultant of this pilot. This new program is designed to help low-to-moderate income Houstonians residing in Precinct 7 avoid potential eviction judgments by facilitating mutually beneficial agreements between tenants and landlords.
There will be three main components of this new program: connecting qualified clients to homelessness prevention funds, providing households with short-term case management, and compiling and analyzing data to further answer these proposed research questions:
- which strategies prevent evictions and promote housing stability,
- which strategies can be replicated for the rest of the community to adopt, and
- how these strategies can eventually be implemented county-wide.
Judge Jeremy L. Brown, who is the Precinct 7 Place 1 Judge of the Harris County Justice of the Peace Court, began to brainstorm this program when he realized the volume of eviction cases he was seeing in his courtroom. The percent of evictions was staggering, and he knew he needed to change this during his time in office.
“I learned from my previous work that I needed to find out what the problem was, and who the experts were in this field of eviction, permanent housing, and homelessness,” said Judge Brown. From there he began to his research to determine which key players needed to be brought to the table to make the pilot program a success.
Judge Brown says his overall goal with the program is to raise awareness of the eviction crisis happening not only in his jurisdiction, but also on a county, state, and national level. “This eviction crisis is about a lack of adequate and affordable housing, which is a nationwide problem,” says Judge Brown. “What we have to do is ask ourselves what are the barriers? And what can we do to push our policymakers to make changes that remove these barriers?”
Even with this program in place, Judge Brown reiterates that once an individual is in the courtroom, the law is the law. “Once they set foot in my courtroom, I still have to follow the law, and that’s why we need something preventative to make sure they never have to come to court,” says Judge Brown. “We need to spend more money on homelessness prevention.”
Judge Brown also talks about the impact eviction might have on the children of these families. He says a lot of youth won’t attend school because they don’t have a stable housing environment, which can affect their long-term future. As someone who grew up on the southside of Houston, Judge Brown says he was very fortunate to live in a stable environment, where as a lot of the people he grew up with did not.
“My overall goal is to leverage the bench to make a broader change,” says Judge Brown. “I think by using this ground-up approach and bringing the right people to the table, we can find practical solutions to these inequities.”