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54-A District Court receives funding for program to reduce evictions in Lansing

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Lansing’s 54-A District Court has launched a new diversion program to help city residents facing evictions.

54-A District Court received more than $134,000 in May from the National Center for State Courts’ Eviction Diversion Initiative to fund the eviction diversion program for two years. The court was one of 12 courts across the country selected to receive the funding from NCSC, which itself was made possible through a $10 million Wells Fargo grant.

District court manager Stephanie Blandford said eviction is a “huge issue” in the city and the program will allow for there to be a dedicated worker to connect people with services.

“If someone comes in and says, ‘I’m facing eviction, where do I go?’ [The facilitator] can sit down, hear the person’s story and really help connect them with maybe an attorney to give them legal advice … or whatever is available to them.” Blandford said.

Blandford said the program will also expand court-based eviction diversion programs to prevent avoidable evictions, identify and address barriers to help simplify court processes, and expand access to legal and other resources. Data collection will also be strengthened to better understand outcomes of reform efforts.

Blandford said the Eviction Diversion Facilitator position has already been filled by Ulices Rosa. Rosa previously worked at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as an Eligibility Specialist. According to Blandford, Rosa was a member of the Eviction Diversion Program at MDHHS and has experience specifically addressing the community’s needs.

“I think for me, if we prevent one person from being evicted, it’s a success, so I mean we’re hoping to make a big difference in the community and keep people in their homes,” Blandford said.

Blandford said while the grant will cover the program for two years, the court is interested in keeping the program available long-term.

Melorie Begay is WKAR-FM's weekend host and a general assignment reporter.
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