Every year roughly 6,500 families in the Kalamazoo community face the very real prospect of becoming homeless due to job loss, illness or other economic hardship. An eviction disrupts the family and community on many levels ranging from a child’s school attendance, a parent’s job performance and reduction in property values. A record of an eviction adds one more barrier to securing safe and affordable housing.
Acknowledging the devastating impact an eviction can have on a family and a community, and realizing that the best way to deal with homelessness is to prevent it, Legal Aid of Western Michigan has been committed to having an attorney at the thrice-weekly eviction docket in Kalamazoo the last 13 years.
Recognizing that an eviction often calls for a financial solution instead of a litigated one, Rick Kupferschmidt of the Kalamazoo office led an effort to organize a consortium of community partners to develop the “first in the nation” Eviction Diversion program. This program integrates community financial and legal resources to prevent evictions and homelessness. 

The community partners; Unit ed Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region , Kalamazoo County Department of Health and Human Services , Eighth District Court , Housing Resources Inc . , Gryphon Place 2-1-1 , Fair Housing Center of Southwestern Michigan along with Legal Aid, work together to alleviate immediate housing crisis and address the conditions that lead to an eviction. In this collaboration, representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Housing Resources, Inc, (HRI) join Legal Aid at the Eighth District Court during its real estate docket. The DHHS and HRI representatives are there to assist tenants and housing code compliant property owners expedite applications for financial assistance in paying back rent.

Legal Aid Lawyers are there to defend illegal evictions and enforce tenant’s legal rights. Since its inception in 2010, this program has expanded to Lansing, Pontiac, Warren and most recently Durham, North Carolina. Last year this Eviction Diversion Program prevented eviction of 412 Households and paid out through HRI and DHHS over $138,000 in financial assistance. 
John Smith has been an attorney at Legal Aid of Western Michigan for almost nine years. He joined Legal Aid on a grant to represent homeowners facing foreclosure, and now concentrates on all manner of housing law. John grew up on a farm in southwest Michigan, and ran the family farm for several years before he decided to go to law school. He worked for the Michigan Court of Appeals before joining Legal Aid in 2009. He is on the boards of the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, and the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan. When he's not busy at work, he and his wife enjoy camping around the state of Michigan.   
John recently represented a woman who was being evicted from her subsidized apartment because her son, who was also her care-giver, was living in the apartment with her. We filed a counter-claim under the Fair Housing Act based on the landlord's refusal to allow her son to stay in the apartment, and won a jury trial for the client. She and her son are still in the apartment, and the jury awarded her damages based on the landlord's attempt to evict her. 
Our Kalamazoo office offers a monthly service provider training series entitled Donuts & The Law. These trainings offer legal information on a variety of topics, often that correspond to the theme of our newsletters.On March 9th we held a training on housing issues attended by 46 service provider representatives. Of participants surveyed, 100% said the information they learned would help them serve their clients more effectively!
Our next training, Paternity and Personal Protection Orders , will be held on Friday, April 13, 10am-12pm.
If you would like more information, please email us!

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