Volunteer Opportunity: Housing Court Clinics

Minnesota has rapidly descended into chilly temperatures this fall, making winter viewable on the horizon. For many, the idea of winter is met with groans about driving in the snow, less daylight, and fewer opportunities to go outside. For those experiencing housing insecurity, however, the idea of winter can be life or death. 

This past week, an article by Tom Nehil published in the Star Tribune discussed the current trend of eviction filings in Hennepin County. Eviction filings have surged since the statewide eviction moratorium was lifted in June of this year, increasing the total eviction filings by 46% within one month. And it’s not just eviction filings that have increased, but the average days from eviction filing to judgement. The rise of average days from eviction filing to judgement has increased from 48 days in January to 124 days in August. And this has dangerous implications. Those who are having evictions filed against them right now could be facing a housing crisis three to four months from now, in the middle of the coldest part of the year.

Luckily, there are organizations who are working to support this dilemma. A program operated through the Volunteer Lawyers Network: Housing Court Clinics in Hennepin, Ramsey, and Anoka County, offers advice, limited services or full representation to tenants and low-income landlords appearing for the first time in court on an eviction or rent escrow matter. The work of the housing Court Clinics is critical, but the burnout is being felt across their volunteers. In an effort made by the county to mitigate some of delay in eviction filing to judgement, Muria Kruger, Housing Program Manager and Resource Attorney at VLN, says help is needed more than ever. 

‘Starting October 3rd, Hennepin County increased the number of evictions heard weekly from 90 to 150. This drastic increase puts an immediate strain on our ability to provide legal services to those who are at risk of losing their home. Recent shifts have also increased VLN’s need for attorney’s interested in volunteering at the housing court clinic in Anoka County.’

So, how can you get involved? 

Upcoming training to work with Housing Court Clinics in Hennepin, Ramsey, and Anoka County is taking place on Tuesday, October 18th from 3-4:30 via zoom. You can register for this training here. Further, all training, practice materials and clinic shift sign-ups can be found on the Housing Volunteer Resources. The approximate time commitment for volunteers is a (1) 4-hour shift per month. Can’t volunteer? You can also donate to VLN here.

Every winter, Minnesota comes together against the cold, sharing the power of community. To learn more about getting involved with Housing Court Clinics in Hennepin, Ramsey, and Anoka County, visit VLN’s Housing Resources or email Muria Kruger at Muria.Kruger@vlnmn.org