by Matthew Desmond

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What theories and practices from Evicted can social workers use to address poverty and evictions?

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Social workers have become increasingly involved in eviction prevention efforts, both as individuals and as part of general professional approaches that emphasize tenant advocacy and coordination with multiple social service agencies and non-profit organizations.

Efforts on behalf of residents increasingly look across the spectrum at issues of housing security. Through the residential services field, emphasis is placed on keeping people in their homes, not just mitigating the damage once they are forced to leave. The importance of affordable housing is stressed, and social workers may be part of a social service organization or work in a government agency. Beyond attention to each person or family as an individual case, residential services locates the individual within and strengthens ties to their community.

Both through staff and volunteer positions at advocacy organizations, social workers can help bridge the gap between tenants and landlords. For people who are facing eviction or have been evicted, groups such as Coalition for the Homeless provide practical assistance in the form of grants that can cover rent or help in obtaining a new rental. Connecting people with personal and employment counseling is another essential service.

Another significant component of the multi-tiered approach is the emphasis on tenants’ understanding the legal protections available to them, including the process of obtaining legal representation. Social workers as well as lawyers have positions with organizations such as Legal Aid that operate in most cities.

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