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Milwaukee County proposal could give residents facing eviction access to free legal counsel

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Posted at 6:35 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 20:34:33-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Ryan Clancy is looking to put the power back into the people's hands. He's doing so by introducing a new resolution that would provide families facing eviction access to legal counsel, free of charge.

"It seems like a really small thing, but it would make a huge difference. Only 3% of people facing evictions, 3% of tenants have access to legal counsel," said Clancy.

Ryan Clancy
Supervisor Ryan Clancy

Maggie Barns had been living at her apartment at the Majestic Lofts for nearly 17 years before she learned that the property had been sold, and the new owners were raising her rent by nearly double what she was already paying - forcing her to find another place to live in just four weeks.

"I wasn't aware of the resources that were out there, that were available to me. I had to contact an outside agency to help me," said Barns.

Luckily, Barns was able to get assistance from the local non-profit, Community Advocates, to find her another home. But she says not everyone knows about the help that's out there.

"Having someone to speak for you on your behalf is very important," said Barns.

Over the past three years, more than 36,000 evictions were filed in the Milwaukee County Court system. The number was down in the pandemic due to a moratorium.

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"Our goal for us is to try and prevent the filing from happening. In the event that eviction is filed, the right to counsel can be extremely helpful," said Deb Heffner, housing strategy director with Community Advocates.

The federal eviction moratorium is expected to be lifted by the end of the month. Clancy says there's no better time than right now to get this resolution passed.

"It'll be on us to make sure that we get those services into the hands of the folks that need it most," said Clancy.

Clancy says next, the resolution will go before the board's finance committee on June 17 for a vote before being presented to the full board. He's welcoming anyone to that June 17 meeting who'd like to share their personal experience dealing with the eviction process.

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