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With the lifting of Illinois' eviction moratorium fast approaching....
Project NOW has a program and money in place to help people stay in their homes.

Project NOW has partnered with the 14th Judicial Circuit in Rock Island County, the Rock Island County Bar Association, Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., and the Salvation Army to develop an Eviction Diversion Program. The goal of the program is to cope with the onslaught of evictions once the Governor’s moratorium on evictions is lifted—possibly in August.

According to the 14th Circuit Court Judge Carol Pentuic-- who has been spearheading this new program- the goal is to keep tenants housed while ensuring that small business owners are reimbursed back rent.  She is also concerned the courts could not handle the influx of cases, so this program is a win-win for everyone.

Under a local court rule any landlord who files an eviction order will be notified of this new program and be required to do mediation before the matter is set for trial.  Pentuic says the hope is that cases can be resolved through alternate dispute resolution. Ideally, landlords and tenants would contact Project Now and the Salvation Army to receive rental assistance before the need for an eviction. However, if the parties have not done so, this program will provide the opportunity for the parties to access resources. In addition, many tenants will be eligible for free legal representation from Prairie State Legal Services should the matter not be resolved through mediation and has to go to trial. The mediators have received training and will be providing their services free of charge.

The program is partnering with volunteer attorneys. John Deere is generously providing volunteer mediators through Deere’s involvement with the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI). At the time of the parties first court appearance, they will be referred to the program and will need to complete mediation within 14 days. That process will be done remotely, but the courts will provide computers to facilitate the mediation at the courthouse and the arbitration center for people who do not have internet access. Cases will be set for status within 14 days to verify compliance. Sanctions will be imposed for failure to participate. Cases that are not resolved through mediation will be set for trial when trial time becomes available. People are strongly encouraged to contact Project Now and the Salvation Army before the eviction process is initiated.

Project NOW’s Executive Director, Dwight Ford says funds are currently available for rental and utility assistance. “If rent can be caught up prior to the eviction being filed, everyone benefits. We hope this program keeps people housed and relieves the strain on small business owners.” Cook County is the only other county in the state implementing this type of program designed to keep people in their homes while also paying landlords.

The rule as well as an eviction toolkit and an explanation of the program can be found on the Rock Island County Court Administrator’s website https://www.rockislandcounty.org/CourtAdmin/Home/

 

Diagram of Rock Island, Mercer, and Henry countiesProject NOW Inc., Community Action Agency, serves Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties in Illinois. Since 1968 we have helped families with low incomes and seniors meet basic needs and improve their standard of living.