Organization seeking solutions for high eviction rates in Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Members of Willis Dady Homeless Services in Cedar Rapids are looking at how to cut down on the number of people being evicted that leads to homelessness.

Belongings from a house whose occupants were recently evicted sit on a curb in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 (Rebecca Varilek/KCRG)

According to data from 2016, landlords evicted 766 tenants from their homes. That’s about half of the people who actually received an eviction notice.

“Over, and over, and over, we are finding our clients with one eviction, three evictions or five evictions,” Phoebe Trepp, Executive Director of Willis Dady Homeless Services, said. “It’s hard to find them a home and if you do it’s usually double or triple the down payment.”

Trepp’s organization works as a case manager for its clients. She said unexpected bills are the biggest reason people can’t afford rent, but rather than turning to evictions, communities, landlords and lawyers need to find new options.

“One of the solutions that we’ve seen be effective is that prior to an eviction court hearing we get the tenant, landlord and the lawyers together to see if there is a payment plan that could work,” Trepp said.

“No landlord can allow anyone to live on their property for free,” Laura O’Leary, President of the Landlords of Linn County, said. “It’s their business or their livelihood.”

O’Leary said the eviction process is an expensive and tedious one.

“It can cost anywhere from $1,000 to a couple of thousand dollars easily,” O'Leary said. “It usually only takes about a month, but the whole process of getting the paperwork delivered, as well as court hearing, needs to be perfect. There’s a lot that could go wrong.”

Trepp said the number of people getting evicted is on the rise and she will continue to work to find answers and push for change.

“It’ll be difficult, but this is the start of the study,” she said.