Late last week, the Miami-Dade Police Department announced that its officers would cease to enforce evictions across the county in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. The move was applauded by advocacy groups, including the Community Justice Project, which provides legal aid to Miami's vulnerable populations.
"It's really, really important that we're thinking about equity," the nonprofit's cofounder, Alana Greer, told New Times after the announcement. "The reality is we live in a state that has eviscerated the social safety net."
Now the Community Justice Project and more than 20 other aid groups have asked Florida to follow Miami-Dade's lead and issue a statewide moratorium on evictions. In a letter to Chief Justice Charles Canady, the organizations assert that the Florida Supreme Court "must take decisive action to assist millions of households in our state to avoid eviction during this public health crisis."
"We desperately need more protective measures for the incredibly vulnerable renter households across the state of Florida," the letter states.
Beyond concern for the humanity and stability of renters, an eviction moratorium could be beneficial for public health, the groups argue: Given that people are being asked to stay home and socially distance themselves to avoid further transmission of the virus, asking renters to appear in court for an eviction proceeding is inadvisable; people should be permitted to stay in their homes if they're asked or forced to self-quarantine.
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"As we know all too well, low- and middle-income renters are particularly vulnerable to evictions in times of crisis," the letter states. "While supplies are running low in grocery stores, schools are closing, and fears about how to protect your family and loved ones from a potentially deadly disease are top-of-mind, receiving an eviction notice... becomes an overwhelming and unnecessary stressor."
Locally, representatives from Legal Services of Greater Miami, Dade Legal Aid, the University of Miami School of Law's Tenants' Rights Clinic, Legal Aid Services of Broward County, and Florida's Children First, among others, signed the letter.
Jeffrey Hearne of Legal Services of Greater Miami says the organization is still operational and providing assistance for low-income renters facing eviction and other civil legal issues. Applications are being accepted online and via phone.