They're trying to save Detroiters from eviction before it's too late

Nushrat Rahman, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

Tenesa Sanders walks up to an apartment in Midtown Detroit on a Saturday afternoon, with clipboard in hand and flyers about a free legal clinic happening later that day for people facing eviction and ways to get rental assistance.

She buzzes in to try and reach the tenant, whom she says could be evicted this week, but gets no response.

"He needs this paperwork so bad," said Sanders, a renters and tenant organizer with local community organization Detroit Action, who is going door-to-door to get renters on the verge of eviction the help they need to stay housed.

Sanders leaves the materials on the tenant's patio. She hops into her car and drives off to the next apartment, hitting five more units that afternoon and leaving flyers where she can — slipped under doors, in lobbies and near mailboxes. All the while, she references a list of 159 addresses for people who could be evicted soon. She prefers talking to tenants directly and connecting them with resources, but on Saturday she didn't reach anyone.

"That's all we can do," she says as she leaves materials near one mailbox, suggesting that residents may be out on a Saturday afternoon.

Sanders' door-to-door outreach is part of a broader push by a coalition of five Detroit nonprofits to connect renters with resources to stay housed, including funds to wipe away back rent and legal counsel. The group is taking a grassroots approach — leaving information at doors and working with local businesses — especially now that a moratorium on residential evictions that had been in place for roughly a year has been lifted, and millions of dollars in federal rent aid are available.


"The resources are there for the moment. You have to connect the resources to the people," said Tonya Myers Phillips, director of community partnerships and development at the Sugar Law Center and public policy adviser for Michigan Legal Services, one of the organizations that is part of the outreach effort.

People may not know resources exist and they may lack internet access, she said, adding that the application process to tap into federal aid can be long and laden with paperwork.

"The overall goal is to reach Detroiters where they're at and to get information to Detroiters about eviction rental assistance that's available, legal representation that's available and also invite individuals and residents into the process for implementing long-term solutions in the city of Detroit," she said.

Five Detroit-based organizations received a $80,000 one-year grant from the National Low Income Housing Coalition in August to expand eviction prevention, as thousands of people in metro Detroit reported housing instability.


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