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Community housing advocates want Detroit residents to have resources when facing eviction

a red pickup truck with a sign that says NO EVICTIONS
Caroline Llanes
Michigan Radio

Community organizations in Detroit are worried about Detroit residents facing evictions as a result of COVID-19. Governor Gretchen Whitmer did not extend the statewide moratorium on evictions, which ended Thursday morning.

On Thursday, the 36th District Court extended the moratorium on evictions in the city of Detroit through August 15th. 

On Wednesday night, Detroit Eviction Defense and the O’Hair Park Community Association went door to door in Detroit’s O’Hair Park neighborhood, handing out information on resources available to those facing evictions. 

Patt Braxton, president of the OHPCA, explained the history of renters in O’Hair Park.

“Back in the day, when you worked for the fire department, police, civil service… you had to live in the city of Detroit. And this was as far as you could go and still be in the city of Detroit. So that’s why they called it ‘Copper Alley.’ That’s where the civil servants lived.”

Braxton says this older population needs services.

“So you have a lot of people who have been here since 1965. You’ve got people that have been living here a long time, they have been aging in place, and they need services. Then, when they age out and they sell their homes, that’s when the renters come, and land speculators come, and just throw stuff in there and don’t do a good job, and that’s where problems come. Our organization, we’re trying to bridge the gap between renters and owners, trying to improve the quality of life.”

The groups split up into caravans of four or five cars, all with signs taped to their windows that said things like ‘No Evictions” and “Extend the Moratorium.” While the drivers in these cars drove slowly and honked their horns, others walked on the sidewalks, distributing flyers and cards with information on resources for evictions to those in the neighborhood.

A car that has a sign that says no evictions
Credit Caroline Llanes / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Steve Babson was one such person distributing flyers. He’s worked with Detroit Eviction Defense for more than ten years. He says Detroit Eviction Defense has worked with the OHPCA within the community on issues of housing, even before the pandemic.

Babson says no Detroit neighborhood will be immune to what he calls “a tidal wave of evictions.”

“We’ve done some work stopping evictions in this area before the pandemic; the issues have multiplied tenfold by what’s happened to the economy, to people’s health, and the potential for people losing their homes.”

He said the state needs to take more action to protect Michiganders, Detroiters especially.

“We think at a minimum they need to extend the current moratorium on evictions, but also definitely expand it to foreclosures, and lengthen the time well beyond the end of the COVID crisis, because this is going to continue to be an issue for months and months,” he said. 

One person Babson gave a flyer to is Teela Sable. She’s lived in O’Hair Park for six years. She said she's behind on her bills.

a flyer with information about eviction
Credit Caroline Llanes / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

“I haven’t been able to work at all and you know, my kids are out of school and no childcare and you know I’m scared about sending them back to any school or daycare, so,” she said.

Susan Stellar is the vice president of the OHPCA. She said the method of small car caravans and flyer distributors was a little different than what they usually do, but she felt it was mostly a success.

“We know of 28 eviction cases that were before the court, right before the courts shut down that are in this square mile. So, we’re going to follow up with those known cases for starters. And you know, some people didn’t get to all the streets, so we have follow-up work to do, and we’ll be doing it in the next week or so.”

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Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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