Eviction filings in June up nearly 30-percent from last year, housing issues continue to loom during pandemic

NOW: Eviction filings in June up nearly 30-percent from last year, housing issues continue to loom during pandemic

MILWAUKEE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) - Court records show eviction filings in Milwaukee County have increased by nearly 30-percent last month year-to-year. Aside from evictions, the pandemic has also created housing issues for a number of people.

The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee says there’s no question eviction filings have gone up since the statewide eviction moratorium ended on May 26. They say tens of thousands of people are also still waiting for unemployment checks, creating the perfect storm.

“A 26-percent increase in the month of June from 2019 to 2020,” said Colleen Foley, Executive Director for the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee.

In a five-day span from June 22 to June 26, 461 evictions were filed with the Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

“I can tell you our intake line is being inundated,” said Foley.

The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee has hired two more housing lawyers to deal with the influx in calls for help, in a week's time the organization had gotten more than 110 calls.

“That’s an unheard number for us and bulks of those calls are about housing issues, not exclusively evictions,” Foley added.

LaTeasha Russ called Legal Aid Society for help after being locked out of her own home in April amid the governor’s eviction moratorium.

“My landlord illegally locked me out my home,” said Russ.

Her landlord was receiving on-time payments from Russ’ rent assistance program. Russ just had two shoulder surgeries and is currently battling breast cancer. She asked her landlord to stay past her lease which ended in March until things had settled and she could go back to work.

“I was on chemo and so therefore my immune system was low so my doctor didn’t want me to go outside other than to go to my doctor’s appointment,” added Russ.

Russ says after the locks were changed, her landlord threw her items in the back alley, leaving nearly everything damaged.

“My children were in a car with me, and so they were crying and I was crying and so it was hard,” said Russ.

While not an eviction, Foley says Russ is just one of a number of families reaching out for help with housing issues in the county.

“I was devastated, that’s the best way to explain it, it was very humiliating. I’ve never felt homeless a day in my life and at that point I felt homeless,” Russ said.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley knows the feeling. He says he’s experienced eviction three times in his lifetime.

“It could take a huge toll on a person mentally, physically, emotionally, when you don’t know where you’re going to be able to lay your head,” said Crowley.  

County Executive Crowley says $7 million has been made available for eviction prevention, but the money will not last long.  It’s only enough to help 2,000 homes.

“In the first week of us rolling this out, we had 900 applicants,” said Crowley.  

“I’m concerned for the end of the summer when a number of sources dry up,” added Foley.

If you are in a situation where you may face eviction, Foley says to contact community advocates, communicate routinely with your landlords and contact legal aid.

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