Akron Municipal Court receives $240,000 grant to invest in eviction diversion efforts
Akron Municipal Court will take another step to combat the eviction crisis after receiving a $240,000 grant from the National Center for State Courts’ Eviction Diversion Initiative.
The court will use the money to hire two new full-time staff members. These positions will help stop evictions by pairing people facing eviction with existing community resources that can help, Judge Nicole Walker said. This will be the first step in resolving eviction disputes before going to court, she said.
“We're hoping that we're going to have similar outcomes to other courts across the country who have participated in this,” she said. “We hope to reduce the overall number. We hope to find creative solutions for both parties.”
Akron has some of the highest eviction numbers in the state of Ohio, Walker said. These disputes can usually be resolved without going to court, she said.
“Many times, it's just a payment issue,” she said. “The tenant may be a good tenant, and it's just they're behind and you can be one day late and have an eviction served on you.”
In addition to renters, the program will also support homeowners facing housing code violations, which is also an issue in Akron.
“These are owner occupied houses where there may not be running water, there may not be electricity, they're unfit, unsafe,” she said. “We want to also help that population of people which tend to run elderly, disabled before the city starts charging them with these violations.”
The grant will also coincide with the court’s piloting of an Online Dispute Resolution system, which the Ohio Supreme Court chose the court to use in 2021. The goal of the system is to get tenants and landlords to engage in mediation before an eviction hearing.
The grant will last for two years with oversight and assistance from the National Center for State Courts throughout. If the program is successful, the court plans to ask the city for funding to continue it in the future, Walker said.
After years of struggling with evictions in Akron, Walker is grateful for the grant to help the court make a difference.
“We recognized the crisis,” she said. “We just needed help in trying to find a solution to it.”