MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee City and County officials are celebrating the launch of Eviction Free MKE, a new program dedicated to keeping families in their homes - and stopping evictions.
"We have an opportune moment to change the system," said Legal Aid Society Milwaukee Executive Director, Colleen Foley.
Being in jeopardy of losing your home can be scary. But what's even more intimidating is going through an entire legal eviction process alone. In Milwaukee County, just 3% of people facing evictions have access to legal counsel, while more than 50% of landlords do.
"The system is intimidating, it's fast-paced," said Foley.
Which is why housing advocates decided to level the playing field by officially launching the Eviction Free MKE initiative, a program that will provide families facing evictions access to legal representation, free of charge.
"The chances of their eviction being dismissed because they are able to work something out, or at least delayed, goes up 90%," said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin.
The program was initially proposed by Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy over the summer when the federal eviction moratorium was still in place. But now that it's been lifted, the need for families to have access to attorneys is rising.
"Weekly eviction filings tended to hover around 120ish. Since the moratorium got lifted on Aug. 26, there's been a steady increase. Just last week it was 290, which is really concerning," said Foley.
And by having this representation, officials say it can be a gamechanger in people's lives.
"All the data says that when people have legal representation and they know their rights, they fair better in court. They're able to get the help they need, and they're often able to stay in their housing. And it's not just staying in housing - it means keeping your job in a lot of cases, it means for minor children in the household having lower lead levels and doing better in school," said Clancy.
Officials add that in order to qualify for the program, a person must be 200% or below the federal poverty line.
To learn more about Eviction Free MKE, click here.