Where Housing and the Legal System Meet
People who lack housing or are facing housing insecurity often end up in contact with the legal system. Police are called upon to respond to those who are unhoused while those threatened with eviction or seeking crucial housing repairs may end up in the courts. Responding to the wide array of housing challenges people confront, with a goal of improving safety and security for everyone, requires a holistic approach that works inside and outside the legal system to advance policy reforms while connecting families and individuals to the services and resources they need to access a safe, secure home.
The Center for Court Innovation serves as a bridge between the system and communities, developing comprehensive strategies to advance access to housing and reduce housing insecurity.
Addressing the Repair Crisis in NYCHA
There is a repair crisis in New York City Housing Authority apartments, affecting nearly 400,000 New Yorkers, where gas outages and much-needed repairs can remain unaddressed for months. Our housing resource centers help tenants through the processes, supporting them in documenting and tracking their repair needs, as well as accessing and navigating the court system when needed to hold NYCHA accountable. We also work to achieve systemic reform through advocacy for open data on NYCHA’s housing code violations and for improvements to NYCHA’s work order systems.
Meeting Housing and Other Needs During the Pandemic
The limits imposed by COVID-19 forced courts and social services to innovate by implementing virtual hearings. Working closely with Newark Municipal Court and a local shelter, our team in New Jersey brought together nearly 20 organizations at community locations frequented by people who are unhoused to offer them services for healthcare, housing, and legal information. While the biggest concern for attendees was housing, these mobile “pop-up” events improved access to assistance during the pandemic, helping people clear old warrants, apply for benefits, schedule primary care appointments, and navigate paths to retain or obtain secure housing.
Connecting Eviction and Mental Health
People with mental health challenges sometimes face unique obstacles with housing. The threat of eviction is a significant cause of stress and housing instability that can lead to homelessness, poor health, and even institutionalization. Our housing experts developed the Eviction Intervention Stage Model, which identifies junctures at which supportive, problem-solving interventions can ensure the necessary community support and legal representation to reduce the chance of eviction and help people with mental health conditions in retaining stable housing.