Minnesota has rapidly descended into chilly temperatures this fall, making winter visible on the horizon. For many of us, the idea of winter means groaning about driving in the snow, less daylight, and fewer opportunities to go outside. For those experiencing housing insecurity, however, the coming of winter can mean life or death. According to a September Star Tribune article, eviction filings in Hennepin County have surged since the statewide eviction moratorium was lifted in June, increasing the total eviction filings by 46 percent within one month. 

And the average number of days from eviction filing to judgment has increased from 48 days in January 2022 to 124 days in August. This has dangerous implications: Those who have evictions filed against them in October and November could be facing a housing crisis during mid-winter, in the coldest part of the year.

Luckily, there are organizations working to support those in need. One of them is Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN), which is operating housing court clinics in Hennepin, Ramsey, and Anoka Counties to offer advice, limited services, or full representation to tenants and low-income landlords appearing in court for the first time on an eviction or rent escrow matter. The work of the housing court clinics is critical, and Muria Kruger, housing program manager and resource attorney at VLN, says help is needed now more than ever. 

“Starting October 3, 2022,” Kruger notes, “Hennepin County increased the number of evictions heard weekly from 90 to 150. This drastic increase puts an immediate strain on our ability to provide legal services to those who are at risk of losing their home.” The current need is especially acute in Anoka County, she adds.

So, how can you get involved? 

You can access VLN’s comprehensive training resources, practice materials, and clinic shift sign-ups on their housing volunteer resources page (www.vlnmn.org/volunteer/housing). The typical time commitment for volunteers is a single four-hour shift per month. Learn more by visiting that URL or by contacting Kruger (Muria.Kruger@vlnmn.org).