This article is part of a series of perspectives on eviction mediation program development that is being supported by the American Arbitration Association-International Centre of Dispute Resolution Foundation. The AAA-ICDR’s grant is enabling RSI to expand our outreach to other court ADR colleagues working in the fast-evolving eviction field, and we are tremendously grateful to the Foundation for their support.
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, a new kind of wave is being predicted – a wave of evictions. So far, a patchwork of federal, state and local eviction moratoria has kept the eviction tsunami from breaking on the shore. But as these moratoria are lifted (as they already have been in some places), millions will be at increased risk of COVID-19 from homelessness or from having to double up housing with friends and family.
RSI is on the front lines of utilizing ADR to address the coming evictions crisis and we are tackling it from several directions. First, we will be launching an Eviction Mediation Program next month in Kane County, Illinois, which encompasses Illinois’ second- and eighth-largest cities, Aurora and Elgin, respectively. Our program will look to connect participants with rental relief and legal assistance before trying to help them come to an agreement using trained third-party mediators.
Second, we are reaching out to courts in more than 35 counties in central and northern Illinois to offer assistance designing and developing eviction mediation programs. While the moratoria are still in place, this is the time to design mediation programs that meet local needs, leverage local strengths, and bring together all necessary resources.
Third, to further advance our mission of strengthening access to justice through court ADR, we will in the coming months roll out a series of resources on utilizing ADR to address the national spike in evictions. These resources will include sample forms and documents courts can utilize in their own programs, guidance on setting up these programs, and information on how others have utilized ADR to manage eviction cases.
Now is the window of opportunity to prepare well thought-out mediation programs that provide procedural justice and a chance for landlords and tenants to reach a solution that is workable — and safe — for all parties. Our work in this arena is being generously supported by the American Arbitration Association-International Centre for Dispute Resolution Foundation and the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation. If you would like to support us in guiding courts on the use of ADR in combating evictions, please consider making a donation to RSI.