Stories & News
The places we live impact how healthy we are. And housing has a direct impact on childhood development, education, wealth creation, and ultimately health. Here’s the backstory about our partnership with Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom to help people facing eviction in Kansas City remain housed and healthy.
Rashida Williams, HCJF Speaker:
They treated me like I was nothing. And they told me it was nothing they can do, they’re going to evict me.
Gina Chiala, HCJF Executive Director:
We went down to the courthouse to see what those dockets looked like and what we saw was four courtrooms, evicting tenants simultaneously in mass. And so we watched hundreds of tenants enter courtrooms housed and we watched hundreds of tenants exit courthouses or courtrooms evicted.
McClain Bryant Macklin, Health Forward Foundation:
Having a home or a place to call our own impacts our health in a variety of ways, whether that’s our physical health or our mental or our emotional health.
So we started a self-help program where we would talk to every tenant before they went into court and say, Hey, here’s how you avoid an eviction today and here’s some free legal advice for you to represent yourself. And when we went back to those tenants and said, how did we do? Were we helpful to you? And they said, sure, you were helpful, but we need you in court. This is a losing battle for us without a lawyer. They have lawyers on the other side and we don’t.
We had worked with Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom previously. They were a recipient of our policy and civic engagement grants along with KC Tenants. I believe they partnered in a grant opportunity and so they approached us knowing that we had supported other campaigns, issue campaigns in the past. I think they also had appreciation for the connection between housing and health.
They took my case on and I was excited about it and we won. And when we won, I felt like I had to help the next person so the next person won’t go through the things that I’m going through or my kids or my children’s kids. And I asked, what can I do to get involved?
We’re hoping to work with Gina and any other interested organization in other parts of our service area to replicate right to counsel.
The biggest accomplishments that we’ve had is really establishing the existence of legal support for tenants where there was none. And then building that into full representation for some tenants facing eviction. And then thanks to help forward actually winning an ordinance that guarantees tenants the right to an attorney when they’re sued for eviction by their landlords. The people we represent work multiple jobs and deal with all kinds of difficulties and hardship. And so to have a home that’s safe and that’s livable and that is stable, is extremely important. And stopping evictions and providing lawyers to tenants when they’re facing evictions is part of ensuring that stability.
I felt like a little relief and I felt like she was a savior, that she saved my life and I didn’t know about this program, and I probably wouldn’t have known if I would’ve just not even gone to court and just got evicted.
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