One-Stop Eviction Diversion Clinics at Housing Court & Neighborhood Centers in Minnesota

The Housing Court Clinic offers a suite of legal, dispute resolution, and financial help to tenants, as well as streamlined court process to help prevent evictions. The clinic has expanded to a Pre-Eviction neighborhood Crisis Clinic, to get the same co-located, holistic resources to tenants at a preventative stage.

Table Of Contents

Basic Information

Program Name

The Ramsey County Housing Court Clinic and associated neighborhood Crisis Clinic, (now expanding to other nearby counties in Minnesota)

Short Description

The Housing Court Clinic offers legal help, emergency funding, and court process changes to help tenants improve their chances of avoiding displacement when facing an eviction lawsuit.

It has co-located a one-stop group of holistic services into a cluster of rooms in the courthouse, just outside the housing court courtroom.

The Clinic program changed the court process around eviction to make tenants more aware of the legal process and available services; to improve the settlement process and outcomes; to encourage agreements that expunge eviction filings from tenants’ records; and to improve court services and spaces for lawyers, mediators, and other service providers.

The neighborhood-based, pre-court Crisis Clinic provides community outreach, legal help, funding, and dispute resolution guidance to families at risk of eviction.

Location

Ramsey County, Minnesota (home to Saint Paul); Hennepin County, Minnesota (home to Minneapolis) — and now expanding to Anoka and Dakota Counties

Duration

It launched in July 2018 in Ramsey County. In October 2019, it expanded to work in outreach before evictions are filed.

Funding

The Family Housing Fund and the McKnight Foundation brought the original stakeholder group together. This group helped to scope the problem and ideas for changes. Then the service providers who then arranged for the special clinic brought their own funding sources.

Size (number of beneficiaries)

Over 650 clients have been helped through the program, as of April 2020

Urban Institute’s video on Teaming up to Prevent Eviction in Minnesota

Stakeholders

Who designed and set up the program? 

A group of stakeholders from Ramsey County were convened by the Family Housing Fund and the McKnight Foundation. Together, this group of judges, court administration, landlord and tenant representatives, legal aid attorneys, mediators, and county emergency assistance staff — agreed to the Housing Court Clinic model.

Who runs and manages the program?

The program is run at the Ramsey County Court. It includes partners of

The Urban Institute has helped the Crisis Clinic group with technical and evaluation assistance.

Who funds the program?

The various partners bring their own resources and emergency funding sources.

Intended Beneficiaries: Who does the program target?

Tenants who are sued for eviction, and those at risk of eviction in the community


Program Details

How does the program work? What are the typical paths of action that the beneficiary + the service-provider take?

The clinic runs every Tuesday and Thursday morning during the Housing Court first appearance calendar.

When tenants arrive at court for an eviction hearing, they are greeted by the Clinic’s check-in table in the courtroom lobby. They are screened for possible services.

Representatives from the various involved groups (the court, volunteer lawyers, SMRLS legal aid group, Volunteer Lawyers Network, Dispute Resolution Center, Neighborhood House, and county emergency assistance fund) are on hand to provide services to the tenant.

Tenants can meet with a lawyer to get legal advice about their case, and mediation can be set up to come to an agreement with the landlord. Social service groups are on hand to help with emergency assistance and funding to help with nonpayment of rent.

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In the Crisis Clinic preventative model, similar co-located legal and financial services are available at a local community center, the Neighborhood House. A tenant can meet with the case manager, legal aid representatives, mediators, and other community group funders to get a plan for how to avert escalations of problems with a landlord.

What assets can be shared for others to use? 

The Clinic’s volunteer attorney application and training are all available at the SMRLS’s page on volunteer resources.

This includes a volunteer information/guide sheet.


Evidence Base

What are the plans for monitoring and evaluation?

The group has tracked reductions in eviction judgments and numbers of settlements. Since July 2018, the housing court has seen some results, as reported by the Urban Institute:

  • an 18% drop in eviction judgments,
  • doubling of the number of eviction cases that are expunged from tenants’ records,
  • a drop in cases that go to trial, of a 30% reduction in trials,
  • a reduction in time spent by court in pretrial hearings, by one hour per week of court time
  • an increase in settlements between tenants and landlords, and
  • a drop in the proportion of eviction filings that result in judgments.

Have any evaluations been conducted so far?

The Urban Institute is researching the Crisis Clinic, to see if it is helping people reach services before an eviction filing.


Contact and Follow-Up Info

Program Website

The Family Housing Fund’s page on the program is at: https://www.fhfund.org/eviction-prevention/

The SMRLS legal aid group’s page: https://www.smrls.org/volunteer/ways-volunteer/ramsey-county-housing-court-clinic/#

Point of Contact for more information

People interested in possibly replicating the clinic, or to get more information — contact Carol Bros at SMRLS at carol.bros [at] smrls.org

Project partners can be reached at their websites, including SMRLS, Urban Institute and Family Housing Fund

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