COLORADO SPRINGS — El Paso County Court is launching the Eviction Diversion Program. At the end of August, the Colorado Judicial Branch announced El Paso County Court will create an eviction diversion program with a grant from the National Center for State Courts.
The program would be designed in hopes of preventing more evictions and assisting people if they are evicted.
Magistrate Andrea Paprzycki thought of first starting a program like this last year. Paprzycki said it has been a long time coming and now with the funding, she hopes the program can start assisting people by the end of this year.
One of the program's main features will be expanding pre-eviction mediation. It will allow tenants and landlords to try to reach an agreement before eviction papers are filed. Paprzycki said this is a way for people to solve the issue, before getting expensive attorneys or going to court. This could help decrease the amount of people going to court for evictions.
Paprzycki's vision also is for better guidance for people who are being evicted. Including on the forms they fill out. She says there will be elements in the program that will help inform people on what they need to submit to the court in regard to eviction-specific forms.
“The idea is to offer defendants a free answer form they can fill out in response to a claim,” Paprzycki said.
Paprzycki said many people end up in court for evictions by unfortunate circumstances.
“It is usually a series of life events that people would rather avoid but can't, that leads them into my courtroom,” Paprzycki said.
Paprzycki said it feels wrong to evict people and send them on their way. There are recovery courts that are used for problem-solving, such as Veterans Trauma Court and Domestic Violence Court, but there is not one for evictions.
Paprzycki said the program would help people who are evicted get connected with relevant community resources. The program would be voluntary and people must consent to it.
“So rather them being panicked in the few days they have to move out of the property after getting evicted, they can focus their efforts on just us giving them information we have already vetted, what kind of help do they need, what organization can help them specifically, and we can connect them with those organization,” Paprzycki said.
Paprzycki said this will help give them more targeted help. The concept is to have three recovery court sessions.
“Recovery means, recovering their housing,” Paprzycki said.
The first session would be getting to know the person or family so they can connect them with the proper organization and temporary housing. The second meeting would be to get the person or family on the path to permanent housing. The third session would be months after eviction.
“Hopefully they are on their way or into permanent housing. The hope would be to address why they were evicted and what we can do to support,” Paprzycki said.
Paprzycki said now that there is little to no temporary assistance anymore from the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of evictions is increasing. She says she typically sees eight eviction trials a day.
She says the most common evictions happen when the rent is not paid or if the tenant violates a rule in their leases. Once an eviction order is entered, they only have 10 days before the sheriff can go to the property and remove them.
Beth Hall Roalstad is the CEO of Homeward Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. Homeward Pikes Peak provides many services to the Colorado Springs community. They primarily focus on assisting homeless individuals, but one goal of theirs is to prevent evictions.
“Housing and shelter is the basic level of human need,” Roalstad said. “We don't need more barriers to housing, we need less barriers.”
Roalstad thinks expanding pre-eviction mediation would be beneficial to limiting the number of eviction notices that go to court.
“Mediating and giving someone another path out of property they have had a problem with, is so important,” Roalstad said.
Once someone is evicted, eviction is included in their background check and credit history for seven to ten years. Roalstad said this can make it really hard for people to find other housing.
“If we can enter into mediation so the eviction does not get on someone's record for seven to ten years, then we have really helped that individual or family divert from an economic crisis to stability,” Roalstad said.
Roalstad said when someone is evicted it can have long-lasting effects. Oftentimes there is slim to no assistance.
“There are very small amounts of rental assistance funding out there that different agencies manage,” Roalstad said.
Roalstad hopes through this program, people who are evicted will get assistance.
“It's really important to help a household come up with an extra 500 dollars or something towards their security deposit,” Roalstad said.
The program will help people find temporary or long-term housing and work with families so eviction does not happen again.
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