HOUSTON – Every day, hundreds of people in Houston and Harris County face eviction and they are left trying to figure out their next step.
The process can be hard for tenants and landlords, but two Harris County courts hope to ease some of the stress thanks to a grant that would fill two-two full-time positions to focus on improving housing stability and strengthening diversion efforts.
Judge Steve Duble who represents Harris County Justice of the Peace Pct. 1, Place 2, and Judge Dolores Lozano who represents Harris County Justice of the Peace Pct. 2, Place were one of 10 national recipients to receive the grant funding from the National Center for State Courts’ Eviction Diversion Initiative.
Starting next month, the facilitators will focus on collecting data and creating strategies to help reduce the harm of eviction. They will also reach out to non-profit organizations, coalitions, and Catholic charities about how they can help families facing eviction. The workers will also help landlords understand the process when it comes to filing a lawsuit.
“I think this is a really great opportunity to look at the data and really see our constituent experience, what they are going through, what they need,” Judge Dolores Lozano said.
So far this year in Harris County, data shows there have been close to 60,000 evictions filed in justice courts.
“I think Houston has one of the highest eviction rates in the country right now,” Judge Duble said.
Paul Deosaran thinks the initiative will be beneficial. Just last month, over 100 people were facing eviction at the Cabos San Lucas apartments. He hopes the new workers will connect residents with resources about organizations that help those who need a place to stay.
“It’s not just single individuals that live here, you are talking about whole families with three or four children, pets, and so forth that’s not an easy thing that’s an easy thing to find a place that’s going to be available or be available right away,” he said.
The judges say the process won’t happen overnight, but they are grateful to get the ball rolling.
“Maybe there is something going on at home or you need a job or maybe you need childcare,” Judge Lozano said.
“Every step of the way, we are going to reconsider how we can improve the process,” Judge Duble said.
Officials hope the workers will be on track with the initiative in about two years. The judges are also hoping to show the data to commissioners and want other courts to have the same opportunity in the future.