Legal Aid of NC starts new eviction diversion program for tenants in underserved areas

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Legal Aid of North Carolina has a new eviction diversion program that is intended to help tenants in underserved areas across 88 counties in the state.

As of this week, North Carolinians in all 100 counties can call the Housing Helpine at 1-877-201-6426 to connect with a team of housing lawyers, paralegals and outreach workers, the organization said in a news release.

“Tenants facing eviction or struggling with other housing problems no longer have to call our general Helpline, which has been overwhelmed with callers since the start of the pandemic,” said Scheree M. Gilchrist, managing attorney of our Central Intake Unit, which runs the helplines.

Gilchrist went on to say that, “Our new Housing Helpline allows tenants to bypass the general queue, avoid long hold times and quickly reach our housing specialists. We are in the middle of an eviction crisis and evictions move fast in North Carolina. We dont want families being put out on the street because they couldnt reach us in time.”

Legal Aid of North Carolina said they started the Housing Helpline mostly “in response to the COVID-related eviction crisis,” but the helpline is available to all tenants with any housing issues. They will help with problems with repairs and maintenance, public housing, mobile homes, rental assistance programs, housing vouchers and more.

The Housing Helpline was created to help provide more services to those who live in largely rural counties that are traditionally underserved, according to the release. The 88 counties being served by the Housing Helpline are the same 88 counties covered by the North Carolina Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program. The HOPE Program provides rent and utility assistance to residents struggling with those issues.

Legal Aid of North Carolina called their partnership with the HOPE Program “an integral part of our new eviction diversion effort” and said that they will receive tenant referrals directly from HOPE and work with both tenants and landlords on education efforts and to help solve issues over HOPE funds. They will also represent tenants in court if and when a landlord chooses to evict them instead of accepting HOPE funds.

“We are excited about this partnership with HOPE,” Peter Gilbert, the head of the new eviction diversion program, said. “Legal assistance and rental assistance are both often necessary to keeping people in their homes. By working together, Legal Aid NC and HOPE can make sure that all the necessary elements come together to prevent eviction and keep families off the street.”

The Housing Helpline is open Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the call is toll-free.

Visit Legal Aid of North Carolina’s website for more information. Click here for information on the HOPE Program.

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