There is currently no program in Chester County that can provide both financial assistance and legal representation to prevent evictions, and with the moratorium on eviction in Pennsylvania set to expire on Aug. 31, Chester County will be facing a wave of evictions that will ultimately place an enormous burden on social service agencies and the community at large.
As a result, Friends Association is launching an Eviction Prevention Court (EPC) pilot program to mitigate and address the significant and devastating impact that evictions have on vulnerable populations and those living in poverty.
Learning from eviction court models in Philadelphia and Montgomery County, Friends Association Executive Director Jennifer Lopez and her team will lead this initiative beginning Sept. 1. at Magisterial District Court 15-4-02 in Downingtown. The Honorable Judge Jeffrey Valocchi has agreed to implement the pilot program in hopes that a long-term collaborative process will provide community-wide benefits.
“Given the hardships that the pandemic has wreaked upon both tenants as well as landlords, this program will go far in assisting all parties, especially through the difficult period of transition following the expiration of current directives and orders regarding evictions,” said Valocchi. “Neither landlords nor tenants will be obligated to utilize the program, but its benefits to all parties should become obvious as the program proceeds. The Downingtown Court is more than happy to assist in being the pilot on such a worthwhile program in assisting the citizens of Chester County.”
Studies have repeatedly shown the benefits of investment in homelessness prevention programs, with estimates of $12 of community savings gained for every $1 of investment. The EPC program will roll out county-wide in a phased process, pending outcomes. Within the first 12 months, the hope is that the program expands into the areas of most need in Chester County.
According to Yolanda Van de Krol, Chester County Clerk of Courts, “This is a win-win-win-win: a win for tenants, a win for landlords, a win for taxpayers, and a win for the courts.”
Initial funding to begin the program has been secured through the United Way of Chester County, but Friends Association seeks additional funding partners who are looking to make a substantial impact in the community.
“The United Way of Chester County is proud to partner with Friends Association on this important, new, and innovative initiative,” said Chris Saello, President and CEO of United Way of Chester County. “We believe that, together, we can rebuild our community even stronger than it was before and assisting community members with homelessness prevention just makes sense – moral, financial, and practical sense. We fight for the financial stability of every person in Chester County, and we applaud Friends Association for this targeted approach to help those in our community that need it most.”
Working throughout Chester County, Friends Association provides programs and services that prevent homelessness and promote the independence of families with children.
“Having a safe place to call home is one of the most essential elements of society,” said Lopez. “We believe that working together with landlords and tenants in crafting solutions will enhance the stability of not only the families and individuals facing eviction, but also the community as a whole. We are proud to be a part of a forward-thinking community which includes the courts, the county, and the United Way in piloting this program.”
Click here to learn more about Friends Association or to support the county’s first Eviction Prevention Court.
If you are behind in rent or need help with eviction prevention services, please call 610-431-3598.
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