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Illinois' eviction moratorium expired Sunday, but an eviction diversion program can help tenants stay in their homes
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Illinois' eviction moratorium expired Sunday, but an eviction diversion program can help tenants stay in their homes

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Residents of the Oak Grove Mobile Home Park in Milan stood outside their homes Monday morning, gathering in the yard of a trailer filled with skeleton heads, floating ghosts and pumpkin lights.

As Rock Island County sheriff's deputies and several work vehicles appeared, they whispered, asked questions and kept their distance as deputies enforced an eviction order served on a tenant Friday. 

A man, appearing to be in his late 20's, pleaded with deputies Joe Causemaker and Manuel Rivera to give him more time. The request was denied. After the deputies completed a walk-through of the trailer, they signaled to work crews to begin the process of clearing out furniture and possessions and changing the locks. 

"We are expecting more (evictions), but there are more steps added; there are programs for them to get help," Causemaker said. "I do foresee more evictions to start coming in."

With the end of Illinois' eviction moratorium on Sunday, eviction orders can now be enforced. Millions of dollars in rental assistance from the American Rescue Plan remains available — but tenants need to apply for the county's eviction diversion program and provide the necessary documents. 

Causemaker said he already had three evictions scheduled this week.

The Oak Grove tenant carried armloads of clothing and other belongings to a vehicle as work crews removed a bed, a couch and black trash bags filled with items from the trailer, placing everything in a pile behind a small shed on the property. Causemaker said the tenant would have 24 hours to remove the rest or the owner of the mobile home park would dispose of them.

Tenants who need help with rent can receive assistance through the eviction diversion program launched in partnership with Project NOW, Prairie State Legal Services, Salvation Army, the 14th Judicial Circuit of Rock Island County and the Rock Island County Bar Association. The program offers mediation services and provides funds to landlords on behalf of tenants who need financial help, preventing evictions and making sure landlords are paid.  

The program requires landlords to go through a mediation process in an effort to resolve the issue before a tenant can be evicted. 

With the expiration of the eviction moratorium, Project NOW is seeing an influx of applicants. Ron Lund, community services director for Project NOW, said the wait time for an appointment is up to two and half weeks, but so far, the agency has provided $970,000 to 1,227 individuals in 514 households since the program launched Feb. 1, 2020.

"There will continue to be an influx for the foreseeable future," Lund said. "As winter approaches, it will become vital that we keep people housed. The Quad-City area has an extreme shortage of affordable housing and we do not have the shelter capacity to handle a large influx of homeless to the Quad-Cities."

Project NOW Executive Director Dwight Ford said the agency has "been preparing for when the guardrails were released. Up until Sunday, the guardrails were up."

"I can assure you, these (eviction) numbers are increasing day-by-day if not hour-by-hour," Ford said. "You need to get an appointment with us for the eviction diversion program. People are getting desperate and I understand."

"We did about three or four evictions last week,"said Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos. "The ones we've done in the past couple weeks are people who haven't done what they were supposed to do during the moratorium."

Bustos said tenants being evicted didn't fill out the required moratorium paperwork.

"People have thought, 'no one is getting evicted during the moratorium,' but there are people who have not done the paperwork," he said. "Judges have done everything they can to get people to fill out the paperwork."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) announced Friday that more than $443 million in emergency rental assistance has been paid on behalf of 49,100 households through the Illinois Rental Payment Program (ILRPP). The amount accounts for more than 90% of the $500 million in available funds.

Judge Carol Pentuic of the 14th Judicial Circuit oversees eviction hearings every Friday at the Rock Island County Justice Center. She said "there is millions of dollars being unused" by tenants who could apply to the eviction diversion program. 

"I have spoken to several private attorneys who handle landlord-tenant cases who were waiting to file all of their cases today," Pentuic said. "I anticipate there will be a big influx today.

"On a normal Friday, before the pandemic, we'd see seven to 10 eviction hearings at the max. Now there are about 20 on a Friday, almost double the amount we would see, maybe triple on some days. I anticipate that number is going to explode. My month of October is already full."

Pentuic gives credit to the Deere & Co. legal department, which has been providing mediators free of charge to the program. 

For more information on the eviction diversion program, contact Project NOW at 309-793-6391; Salvation Army at 563-324-4808; or, to consult with an attorney about an eviction case, contact Prairie State Legal Services at 309-794-1328. An eviction toolkit has been provided on the county website under the court administration link.

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