The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused massive disruption to our local economy and social systems, but many of the effects are only beginning to be seen. Historic levels of unemployment, business closures, and reduced work hours have left many working families without the resources to pay bills. Many of the hardest hit sectors (hospitality, leisure, retail) already relied heavily on low-wage work, and the coronavirus has only added to financial insecurity. Next week we'll begin to see how this is translating to housing instability.
The Hamilton County Courts suspended hearings for eviction cases (legally termed "detainer actions") in mid-March, but on June 16th those cases will begin to be heard. The massive backlog of cases means that multiple courtrooms will be handling these cases, and other types of civil cases are still suspended until the court catches up. To limit exposure, the courtrooms will hear one docket per hour, with ten cases for each docket.
It is important that the community is aware of the scope and outcome of what could become an evictions crisis that threatens community stability. Yet because General Sessions Civil Court isn't a court of record, the outcomes of these cases aren't publicly catalogued. More than ever, we need to make sure that tenant protections and support are open and available.
Next week, CALEB launches Eviction Court Watch, a volunteer program to monitor hearings and record details that can offer insights into housing instability and the court process. We're looking for community members willing to attend the dockets and record information based on a simple template form. This information can then be compiled together to give us a better understanding housing security, and possible steps to improve it.
This program will run for at least one month, and we will reassess after that.
If you would like to be a court watcher, click the link below:
The coronavirus has reportedly left 1 in 10 people in the greater Chattanooga area unemployed, with other industries at risk. Courts have postponed eviction proceedings, but they are set to open up next month under a massive backlog of cases. Our city needs to be aware of the potential scale and danger to community stability that an eviction crisis could have.
This training is meant to provide a starting point to understand how eviction cases work in Hamilton County, and what we should look out for. You can register with the information below:
When: May 27, 2020 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM Eastern Time
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Listen as CALEB's Economic Mobility Co-chair, Austin Sauerbrei of the Chattanooga Area Labor Council, discusses the looming threat of a housing and eviction crisis from COVID-19 and the need for public rent support with Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise CEO, Martina Guilfoil. Scenic Roots is a radio program produced by WUTC.
CALEB is an institutional coalition of faith-based, labor, and community groups working to build power to affect change in Chattanooga, TN.