Meeting Information


Meeting Type
Friday Provider Meeting
Date
Friday, 8/17/2018
Start
9:00 AM
End
11:00 AM
Agenda
Agenda
Summary
Tacoma Pro Bono and the Tenants Union of Washington
Minutes

Welcome

  • James Pogue, Comprehensive Life Resources
  • Candidate forums – We are planning to do candidate forums all September – but let us know your thoughts.
  • If you are provider, or have something new and amazing, let us know (and you know you are doing something amazing – so come share. –ed)
  • There continues to be lots of interest in our work

Presentation

  • Tacoma Pro Bono (http://www.tacomaprobono.org/ )

  • Mark Morzol, Tacoma Pierce County Housing Justice Project, (who is doing an impressive job keeping his e-mail address off the web – I looked, I really did…I’m sure Ashely can connect you to him, though. -ed.)
  • Ashley Duckworth, Paralegal for Housing Justice Project, AshleyD@tacomaprobono.org
  • Housing Justice Project (HJP)
    • The project provides legal advice and representation
    • It serves clients under 200% of federal poverty guidelines.  For a single adult, that is about $2,000/month (with extra $700 per month for each additional family member).  (the Federal Poverty Guidelines are at https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines - just double them for the 200% level –ed.)
    • For military veterans, serve if under 400% (just double the double… -ed).
    • When tenants are facing eviction, 90% of landlords are represented, but only 10% of tenants are represented.  With no representation, it is tough to be successful or even present the case well.
    • About 40% of tentant scheduled for an eviction hearing show up.
    • HJP sees about 3-13 cases per day on the “unlawful detainer docket”, four days per week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday).  Working to get at the courthouse on Fridays – it is a matter of a limited budget.
    • HJP represent individuals facing eviction – they only help tenants, including tenants renting:
      • With section 8 housing – project-based and tenant-based
      • Renting a manufactured home or own the manufactured home and are renting the property the mobile home is located on.
      • Tenants renting from a landlord where the landlord is facing foreclosure on the property (I think I got this right –ed.)
      • Do not represent landlords or homeowners (Tacoma Pro Bono does have the programs to assist them, just not the Housing Justice Program)
    • Only work with folks with an active eviction proceeding going on.
    • Represent folks who did not respond to a summons – which can happen for legitimate reasons.
    • Work to get Orders of Limited Dissemination – hides an eviction on a tenant’s record so it doesn’t show up on background checks.
    • Mark is at the courthouse 4 days a week – and often have volunteer attorneys there as well.
    • How the process works:
      • Ashley is at the door of the courtroom and figures out how many clients can be assisted each day (based on how many attorneys are available).
      • Tenant fills out background materials, Ashley reviews the process with them, and the tenant signs a limited representation agreement (this seems like the perfect place, but is hard to justify inserting snide comments about lawyers and paperwork when they are providing the legal help for free… -ed).
      • Case is staffed to Mark or volunteer attourney (I know attorney is spelled without the “u”, but it just seems to belong there. The first known written use of the word attorney is from Shakespeare’s Richard III, and he spells it with a “u”, so at least I’m in good company. –ed).  The attorney attempt to find a legal response to the eviction through negotiation or representing the client before the judge. 
        • We look for defenses.  There are “absolute defenses”, which would be fatal to the eviction proceeding that day.  Other defenses are softer, that might not result in a dismissal, but might reduce costs or give tenants additional time to move.  We always work with the client to understand their goals and then work towards those. 
          • Procedural defenses – created by statute.  If the landlord fails to do something they should do in the procedural aspects – like the landlord not provide not providing proper legal proceedings, were they  proceedings properly served, did that allow sufficient time as required by statute.  If the landlord fails to do any of those things, that will be bad for their case that day
          • Substantive defenses – everything was done properly and the court has jurisdiction over that case.  The tenant may be arguing that breach that the landlord is alleging didn’t actually occur, or habitability issues the home owner didn’t address, or the eviction is retaliatory, or a disability prevented complying with notices, and more.
        • Goal is to play a role in reducing the homelessness in pierce county by reducing periods of short term homelessness that might be exacerbated (I spelled this word right the first time – yay me. –ed) into long-term homelessness.  This can help provide some relief for folks who might be getting an eviction on their record.  Work to reduce amount of judgments as well. 
        • The case can end in one of two ways:
          • An agreed order – both sides agree – reduce judgements, maybe more time to move and/or an order of limited dissemination.
          • No possible agreement, goes before Commissioner or Judge to make a decision. 
        • This program has been around since May of 2015 – 1,122 tenants have been represented.  Reduced judgment amounts by $850,000. 
          • 224 cases, around 1/5 of all cases, ended up in dismissal.  If folks care coming in for an eviction, the landlords don’t want  them there any longer; the landlord wants to evict them.  Those 224 cases left the courtroom not facing that eviction any longer. 
          • 160 limited disseminations were completed – so eviction doesn’t show up. 
          • 104 cases were salvaged – an agreement was reached allowing someone to stay in their home. 
          • 7,800 additional days housed for the 1,122 tenants. 
          • (applause from the audience).  Mark - clap for the volunteers – they are who make this happen.
        • Ashley Duckworth – The Housing Justice Project is one of our most successful program.  But, we have lots of other services.
        • 50 clinics per month – all volunteer based
          • Divorce
          • Bankruptcy
          • Seal something on record
          • Foreclosure clinic
          • New, 1 year old, Victim of Crime program – represent folks through Domestic Violence hearing, from custody plans to divorce proceedings. 
          • Have clinic to help tenants.    
          • Limited Dissemination clinic.
            • Did 160 last year. 
            • Just last week, had a gentleman with an eviction from 2011 – tried to get limited dissemination on their own, and wasn’t able to.  With Tacoma Pro Bono representation, he got the limited dissemination approved.
            • 3 standards
              • If eviction had no basis in fact or law
              • If the tenant was on a lease agreement and repaid the full amount to stay in the home
              • If other good cause exists for limited dissemination.  Have the opportunity to create a good narrative with this option.  The more time between the eviction and the request helps.  If the eviction is paid off, it works better.  If clients have made changes it can help get the order of limited dissemination.
            • Maureen – can you create an FAQ or provide some more detailed information about who will be able to get limited dissemination.  Ashley – the best thing is to have them come to the clinic and talk to an attorney.  Always refer them, regardless whether they think they can get one. 
          • New clinic – pre-litigation notice clinic.  With  a 20-day notice or 3-day pay-or-vacate – can have time to meet with an attorney prior to the eviction.  Currently can only help folks with a scheduled eviction hearing
            • Maureen – can you talk more about the pre-litigation program – how it starts, how people access it.  Ashley – That clinic will be the 3rd Thursday of the month – the clinic will help clients review the notice, help drafting a letter, put a payment plan together – and hopefully stop it before the eviction action.  Can probably help 10 tenants per month – demand is about 45 tenants per month.  Maureen – is that Tacoma only?  Ashley – it is Pierce County wide. 
          • Mark – the City of Tacoma is making some sweeping changes.  Washington State law allowed a 20 day pay or vacate – which sets tenants up for failure.  The City of Tacoma is changing it to 90 days under certain circumstances– in response to the Tiki Apartments situation.  Until the City comes up with new ordinances related to the 20 day notice, you can get a notice to be out in 20 days if you are on a month to month lease.  The City has had some stakeholder committee meetings – but final plans are probably a few months away.
          • Jensen – How to connect with the dissemination program – how to refer? Ashley – they have to qualify, do a conflict check, and then schedule.  Should call the office (1-888-822-5134).  Can take around 5 business days to call back.  Best is to walk in.
          • Office hours – 9-12, 1:15-4, Monday through Thursday.  Office is located at  621 Tacoma Avenue South, Suite 303, Tacoma, WA 98402 
  • Relicensing clinic – for tickets and fines.  Can have clients do community service to pay off fines. 
  • Maureen – are you familiar with any jurisdictions where if a landlord gives an eviction notice, that eviction notice goes to the City.  Is there a way to know when a property gets flipped.  Mark – Other jurisdictions do require a landlord to submit a copy to the city.  That happens when a City has duties based on the eviction notice being served.
  • Maureen – there is no right to council in the draft agreements.  The City staff said nobody asked for that?  Mark – yes, we should have a right to council – that would be great.  Without counsel representing them, seldom do folks get what they want in court.  We can push for it with the City.  Also, just cause statutes don’t need to be coupled with the right to council – it can be stand alone.  The discussions leading up to the Just Cause were about allowing a landlord to give the eviction notice, but with much more time – like 60 days.  Also want a 60 day notice for rent increases.  And want to allow tenants the ability to have a payment plan for moving.  To move in, you often need security deposit and 1st and last month’s rent.  An ordinance can force the landlords to take a 4 month payment plan to pay off security deposit and last month’s rent.  But we still see homelessness in communities where these protections are put in, so they don’t solve all problems.
  • Al – What are things we can do to help Merkle tenants?  Mark - Merkle fashions itself as a hotel – although tenants stay for years, paying monthly rent, like a tenant.  Hotel guests have different rights than a tenant.  We were recently involved in a situation where a tenant at Merkle Hotel of 4 years was locked out of his room.  Outcome from Merkle Hotel was the Hotel was forced to pay out some and give good references for the client.  This decision caused Merkle tenants to be treated like tenants, not hotel guests.  When the hotel decided to shut down for renovation, the tenants were given 90 day notices.  If the previous case hadn’t happened, the tenants may have just been given a couple days to leave.  They were given an extra 30 days as well.  Up till this point in time, the hotel is within their rights to give a 90 day notice. 
  • Maureen – talk about the proposed relocation grant from the City and the effect that will have on the evictions – getting tenants from the notice to vacate.  Mark – is the city committed to this?  Maureen – they are still talking about it.  Mark – in April or May, when the tiki situation was happening, the City was unprepared to deal with this situation.  In Seattle, when there are mass displacements, it allows for some relocation expenses when there is a change in use or substantial remodel.  The City of Seattle pays 50% of the costs and the landlord pays 50%.  The Tacoma ordinance doesn’t provide that relocation expenses.  Maureen – it is one of the proposed changes.  Mark – I didn’t see that in the last draft with the City of Tacoma.  Maureen – don’t know if it is going as a separate ordinance.  Mark – City seems fine with what they have.  Maureen – City proposal is out there.  Maureen – it is also a 50%/50% split between landlord and City of Tacoma.  Mark – haven’t seen that in the stakeholder committee meetings.  It should have been included from the start. 
  • James – how to prevent folks from becoming homeless has been a focus of our work this year. 
  • A lot of people don’t understand that Just Cause and No Cause evictions are handled differently.  If you work with landlords, help educate them on the differences.

Presentation

  • Tenant Organizing
  • Amy Tower, Tenants Union of Washington , Tenant organizing committee, amyt@tenantsunion.org
  • I have lots of information about just cause – and the Tacoma Tenant Organization committee position. 
  • We believe that housing is a human right and is more important the landlord’s desire to make money.
  • We work with clients that are facing homelessness.
  • Merkle Tenant Leaders – testified in front of Council (and now in front of our meeting. –ed):
    • Alfred Kirk - We appeared before the City council and other groups.  We were given 90 days and then 120 days to vacate the Merkle Hotel.  We were offered no assistance – just a list of places to call.  Not many of us had success calling them.  Apparently, those resources have been maxed out.  So, still some of us are left trying to find places to go, event this late in the game.
    • Brandon Lee, tenant at Merkle Hotel.  I’m looking for a place and facing homelessness.  We’ve been calling but not getting any calls back.  (long pause).  Hopefully we can get some help.
    • Leonard Johnson , tenant at Merkle.  I’ve been homeless prior to Merkle.  I went through the whole system where they said they’d help me, but at the end of the day, they didn’t help me.  They said they’d help me get a place, but with my low income, the rent I can afford wouldn’t put me in a place.  I can’t get a place where I could afford the rent.  To find a place that is rentable is the issue.  This problem is everywhere.  People need to be given places they can afford.  They need an opportunity to show the are responsible.  I have called and visited so many places that say you need to earn 3 times the rent.  That is not possible.  I’m glad you are here to hear what I’m saying.  All of us together can do this.  I think things are going to get worse.
  • Amy – thank you all so much for taking some time
  • Merkle is one of the last forms of unsubsidized affordable housing.  Needing to have 3 times the rent, we need to have more regulations about rent.  Could use your advocacy of lifting the ban on rent control.  We need protections for people that have paid their rent on time for 5 years.  (economists have consistently shown many common rent control approaches will exacerbate a housing crisis, especially in the long term.  If you have some time to kill, take a look at a few  - https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2015/08/30/do-rent-controls-work , https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/rent-controls-winners-losers , https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/01/rent-control-a-reckoning/551168/ and https://psmag.com/economics/in-defense-of-rent-control . -ed.
  • The people impacted by developers that are making a profit off kicking people out need to have some responsibility.  The developers are making the profit off folks being evicted.  We have the power to impact that if we come together as a group.
  • James – rent control is a dirty word – we should avoid using it.  I do think there is an appetite in the state for a permanent ordinance at the state level to support folks leaving their homes. 

Reports

Committees

  • Advocacy Subcommittee – discussing brining in another set of candidates – have 4 in the month of September.  Brandon and Joe
    • Going to add an educational session prior to the candidate forums this time around
    • Working on targeting
    • James – would love to get some folks from the areas that are in the districts and able to vote for candidates
    • Nick woods from the local housing alliance would like to connect in
    • Theresa – we need the messaging group to hear about what we are struggling with. 
  • Workforce Development – Sherri and Kelly
    • Job Club flyers – big stuff happening this Wednesday for the “253 Works Job club”
      • 253 Works Job Club – help folks be ready to get hired at Hire 253 Job Fair.  This Wednesday at
        • Want to highlight all the partners and their interconnections.
    • Daily Meaningful Activity – Pamm
      • Create some timelines
        • Going to do an intake form to organize who we are going to mentor.
        • Resource guide is going to be a map project – with the Y or someone to create a small guide with all the resources
    • Innovative Shelter – Theresa and Patricia
      • Theresa  Power-Drutis
      • At a place where we are ready to get some grant money to do some micro housing. 
      • Patricia has made a lot of contact around the Tent City.
      • A Group of folks are working on the Tiny House Village – there is an unknown around the property and what is happening. 
    • Evictions – Greta –
      • No report out – had some great conversations about what is happening to folks at the Merkle Hotel, and what we can do, with or without funding assistance. 
      • James – we’ve asked the City for funding flexibility to assist tenants – same type of funding and flexibility used with the Tiki tenants

Good of the Order

  • Theresa – The Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney is a very powerful position.  It might be nice to have them come in and talk to the group.
  • August 25th, The Hilltop business Association is having its festival - https://hilltopstreetfair.org/ .  Zydeco Queen will be there with Cajun food. 
  • Hide in Plain Site – presentation on drugs and the drug culture – worth attending
  • New Connections – has a room set aside for female clients with an intake date – want to know from folks how to make that work smoothly.  Contact Theresa Power-Drutis (tpdrutis@nctacoma.org )
  • Are there any resources for Homeless Prevention?

Coming Attractions

  • August 24th – Ending Homelessness – a prototype System Model of Pierce County Homelessness
  • August 31st – wide open…
  • September 7th - Brandon Chun, through the help of the league of women voters, arranged for Jake Fey to come and discuss homelessness. 
  • Want to have a shelter provider forum event – still working on scheduling
  • A December celebration extravaganza

Restaurant Review

One great sadness in the Tacoma culinary scene is the general lack of bakeries. There are a few scattered about, but they have a tough go of things.  One star on the Tacoma scene is the Corina Bakery (602 Fawcett Ave – in the Merino building – where the Tacoma City Ballet and the Grand Theater are located).  They do many things at the Bakery, but their cakes are always the draw for me.  I’ve bought them for birthdays, cub scout potlucks, retirement parties, and just because sometimes life requires a good piece of cake.  And it is good cake.  This is no Costco sheet cake.  It is cake worth eating.  These cakes are the quality-ingredient, baked-with-love-and-care, as-beautiful-as-they-are-tasty, culinary masterpieces you deserve.  You can order a cake over the phone, but it is so much better to pop in and order in person.  Because then you have an excuse to have a fine cup of coffee (All the espresso options are available with AJ’s fine Valhalla coffees) and one of their cookies or other creations (I’m rather partial to their lemon bars).  I usually pick up a few treats to take home for an after dinner surprise for the family.  If things are a bit bumpy at work, you can do worse than to show up at a meeting with some cookies, brownies and those fabulous lemon bars in tow.  I’m not really a sweets fan, but calories from Corina’s are all worth ingesting.  They do pies and cheesecakes as well.  They also do some savory products – quiches and the like, which are honestly more up my alley (real men do eat quiche…).  But I stick with the sweets there, cause they rock.  Yes, you’ll pay more for a Corina cake/cookie/pie than you might want to.  But it is the real thing, and it is worth it.  They have lots of room inside, and it was a go-to meeting location during my nomadic period.  I still remember buying coffee and pastries and then getting ripped a new one by a parent unhappy with some decisions I made in my PTA president days (art night concession options were more consequential than I realized - lesson learned).  Ah, good times.  Anyway, make up an excuse for a trip to Corina’s Bakery.  Maybe you have some out of town guests?  Or a work party?  Nothing says I love you like sublime sweets.  And lord knows, we need to say I love you a bit more than we do.                

Attendees

  • James Pogue, Comprehensive Life Resources
  • Larry Seaquist, League of Women Voters
  • Al Ratcliffe, Me
  • Kristen Smith, Goodwill - YouthBuild
  • Michaela Woodmansee, Goodwill - Youthbuild
  • Pamm Silver, Molina Health Care
  • Barbara Kaelberer, Accountable Communities of Health, Community Voice Council
  • Maridee Heimlich, Step-by-Step
  • Valentinya Germer, Comprehensive Life Resources
  • Glen Kelley, Multicare – Behavioral Health
  • Kalena Towle, Mulitcare – Behavioral Health
  • Jeria Smith, Department of Social and Health Services, Pierce North
  • Theresa Power-Drutis, New Connections
  • Lynn Jones, Catholic Community Services
  • LaVada Kent-Napier – Small Business Owner, Zydco queen food trailer, and more
  • Charleen Fitzgerald, Coordinated Care
  • Grace Burkhart, Howarth Law
  • Nan Peele, Community Member
  • William Stinson, Catholic Community Serivces
  • Maureen Howard, Housing Advocate
  • Maira Castanon, Catholic Community Services
  • Melissa Frink, Catholic Community Services
  • Patricia Menzies, Tent City Tacoma
  • Sarah Appling, Pierce County Human Resources
  • Ashley Duckworth, Tacoma Pro Bono
  • Mark Morzol, Tacoma Pro Bono – Housing Justice Project
  • Richard Berghammer, Fellowship Bible Church
  • Bobbie Ocasio, City of Tacoma
  • Marilyn Duran, Tacoma Rescue Mission
  • Faatima Lawrence, Catholic Community Services
  • Sheila Miraflor, Hire253
  • Kelly Blucher, Goodwill
  • Rowan, Youth at Large
  • Sherri Jensen, Valeo Vocation
  • Brendan Ault, Comprehensive Life Resources
  • Amy Tower, Tenants Union/Tacoma Tenants Organizing Committee
  • Leonard Johnson, Merkle Hotel Resident
  • Brandon Lee, Merkle Hotel Resident
  • Joseph Denton, Sound Outreach
  • Wes Bailey, Metropolitan Development Council
  • Greta Brackman, Comprehensive Life Resources
  • Audrey Oliver, Comprehensive Life Resources
  • Liz Murphy, Comprehensive Life Resources
  • Alfred J. Kirk, Merkle Hotel Resident
  • Gerrit Nyland, Catholic Community Services
  • Elle Kaas?
  • Marty Tetloff, Associated Ministries