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Local nonprofit partners with University of Idaho College of Law to prevent evictions

Jesse Tree helps renters who need legal and social support and rental assistance to prevent them from being evicted from their homes.

BOISE, Idaho — Despite a national eviction moratorium being in place since last fall, over 300 evictions were filed in Ada and Canyon County courts from September to December 2020. And although that moratorium was extended to March 31, 2021, eviction court cases continue. In 2021, there have been over 200 eviction hearings in the Treasure Valley.

A local nonprofit, Jesse Tree announced it is partnering with the University of Idaho College of Law to help renters who need legal and social support and rental assistance to prevent people from being evicted from their homes.

Two years ago, Jesse Tree partnered with Concordia School of Law. A supervisory attorney and law students worked directly with case managers to support tenants through the court process. After Concordia closed last summer, Jesse Tree reached out to U of I’s law school to fill the gap.

Jesse Tree says their work in eviction court is aided by four legal interns who are in their second or third year of law school. The interns work with case management staff at Jesse Tree and reach out to landlords and tenants to try and mediate the cases before going to court. They advocate for the tenants and help with rental assistance. So far in 2021, they have worked together to serve nearly 20 households. Last fall, a total of 30 households were served.

Interns contact each party to see if the cases can be resolved. They also respond to tenants who call or submit a form on the Jesse Tree website.

In each case, interns act as an intermediary between tenants, landlords and their attorneys.

In one instance, a single father in Canyon County who lost his job due to COVID nearly lost his home as well. His roommate had moved out and was no longer paying rent. After exhausting his savings and falling behind on rent, he turned to Jesse Tree for help. With the help of legal intern Jessica Borders, they were able to intervene and negotiate a payment agreement with the landlord that allowed the tenant to stay.

There are additional federal rental assistance resources available in the state of Idaho this year, but Jesse Tree says they will need philanthropic support to continue this program in 2021.

Even when $15 million was available last fall, there were still over 300 eviction hearings in the Treasure Valley and over 650 in Idaho. Federal rental assistance, which contains numerous eligibility and documentation requirements, is not often accessible to tenants in a time crunch.

Jesse Tree has been able to intervene in eviction court cases only with the support of more flexible, private rental assistance from the J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation and other private foundations, corporations, and individuals.