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It’s working, keeping people in their homes and apartments, and free legal help is coming to more renters facing eviction in Oklahoma City’s most vulnerable areas.

The 73120 ZIP code in northwest Oklahoma City has been added to 73111 in northeast Oklahoma City and 73119 in the southwest part of the city.

“Housing instability persists, but we aim to inform tenants in these ZIP codes that free legal support is available well before eviction becomes an imminent threat,” said Michael Figgins, executive director of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Inc. “Our objective is to stand by them, offering advocacy and support throughout every stage of this challenging process.

Since starting in April, “Right to Counsel,” an initiative of nonprofit Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Inc., has closed “hundreds and hundreds” of eviction cases, many before they went to court, and has had a 90% success rate, Figgins said.

Example of images used in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111 and 73119 in Oklahoma City.Example of images used in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111 and 73119 in Oklahoma City.

Example of images used in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111 and 73119 in Oklahoma City.

Legal Aid eviction aim: to disrupt ‘the cycle of housing instability

“Right to Counsel” means more than “mere representation at eviction proceedings,” Legal Aid said in a release at a recent news conference at True Sky Federal Credit Union, 1841 NE 23.

“It aims to intervene early, empowering tenants facing rent shortages to seek legal assistance before eviction filings” to disrupt “the cycle of housing instability,” as a principle of “racial and economic justice.”

Renters can inquire about eligibility by calling 405-554-4636. Guidance on landlord issues or evictions for those outside 73111, 73119 and 73120 areas is accessible at https://oklaw.org/issues/housing/evictions.

HOW IT STARTED: facing eviction in two OKC ZIP codes;elm:context_link;itc:0″ class=”link rapid-noclick-resp”>Legal Aid is offering attorney help to renters facing eviction in two OKC ZIP codes

Example of images used in <a href=social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111 and 73119 in Oklahoma City.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/ZIKPfNj1HvAbj76Co_.ntw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTEyNDI7aD0xMjQy/https://media.zenfs.com/en/aol_gannett_aggregated_707/e633a428f6cb81784b8fa27c86b30e95″/>Example of images used in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111 and 73119 in Oklahoma City.

Example of images used in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111 and 73119 in Oklahoma City.

‘Right to Counsel’ is offered in OKC’s 73111, 73119 and 73120 ZIP codes

“Right to Counsel” initially focused on the 73111 area, from Kelley Avenue east to Bryant Avenue, and from Wilshire Boulevard south to NE 16; and the 73119 area, roughly from Newcastle Road east to S Blackwelder Avenue, and from SW 29 south to SW 59, north and east of Will Rogers World Airport.

The new area, 73120, is from Wilshire Boluevard north to Memorial Road, and from Meridian Avenue east to east of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Figgins said that in addition to support, the “Right to Counsel” effort hopes “to continue working with the community at large to determine long-term solutions to the housing eviction crisis.”

The ZIP codes selected for “Right to Counsel” underwent scrutiny including evaluation of eviction filing statistics. According to the Legal Services Corp. eviction tracker, Oklahoma County had 18,770 eviction filings in 2022 alone, and nearly 53,000 since March 2020.

‘Right to Counsel’ helps people avoid the catastrophe of homelessness

This is an example of images used in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111 and 73119 in Oklahoma City.This is an example of images used in social media for legal aid assistance offered to <a href=renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111 and 73119 in Oklahoma City.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/P9SfnxZzG3NVSDbF2l2X5g–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTEyNDI7aD0xNjU2/https://media.zenfs.com/en/aol_gannett_aggregated_707/cd8e90003f57931d3a9ca8f93a30badb” class=”caas-img”/>

This is an example of images used in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111 and 73119 in Oklahoma City.

Legal help at court “is a good thing, but it’s not in time,” said Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance. Preventing eviction is better for helping families avoid the catastrophic effects of homelessness, “making the landlord whole,” and keeping people housed, he said.

City Councilmember James Cooper, whose Ward 2 includes the 73120 area, said “Right to Counsel” is just one tool in fighting homelessness, but an important one because it works “at the human level” before eviction occurs.

“If you’ve been living under a bridge after eviction, and you’ve been living under the bridge for seven years, you probably burned some bridges along the way, too,” he said, calling for a push to encourage people, especially young people, to become case managers. “If we really want to keep people out from under I-44 and Penn, then the work must be at the human level of going out to meet people where they are, asking them who they are, asking them what their backstory is.”

Cooper repeated his call for home builders to step up construction of affordable homes, especially on infill city lots. He said more than 19,400 working people need one- and two-bedroom homes. Just 3,367 houses were listed for sale at the end of November, according to the most recent stats from the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors.

Household trauma: ‘It all started when I was evicted’

Informative images like this one has been shared in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111, 73119 and 73120 in Oklahoma City.Informative images like this one has been shared in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111, 73119 and 73120 in Oklahoma City.

Informative images like this one has been shared in social media for legal aid assistance offered to renters facing eviction in ZIP codes 73111, 73119 and 73120 in Oklahoma City.

Eviction leads to a host of other social ills, said Mick Cornett, former Oklahoma City mayor, a consultant for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Inc. It’s in the interest of OKC as a whole to deal with them.

“There was a time in this community when if you had suggested that the city be more involved in a social issue, you would’ve gotten a speech or a lecture on why the city shouldn’t, or why the city couldn’t get involved,” Cornett said. “I think it’s wonderful that over the last 25 years we’ve had an ever-increasing role in not only helping to fund, but just in every way we can think of, support people who are in our community and people that may not be thriving today, but we still have hope that they’ll be thriving tomorrow, and we hope that their children will be thriving tomorrow.”

He said he has learned that many people dealing with the worst circumstances say: “It all started when I was evicted.”

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Senior Business Writer Richard Mize has covered housing, construction, commercial real estate and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com since 1999. Contact him at [email protected]. Sign up for his weekly newsletter, Real Estate with Richard Mize. You can support Richard’s work, and that of his colleagues, by purchasing a digital subscription to The Oklahoman. Right now, you can get 6 months of subscriber-only access for $1.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: More renters facing eviction in OKC can get help with free legal aid

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