INDIANAPOLIS — More Hoosiers are falling behind on their rent and struggling to stay in their homes.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana had the highest eviction rate in the Midwest and state residents were getting put out of their homes at twice the national rate.
Andrew Bradley with the nonprofit Prosperity Indiana said inflation coupled with sources of emergency rental assistance drying up made the eviction crisis in the state even worse.
"Families who before never had any problems suddenly can't afford new rent hikes and are having to withdraw their kids from schools and find other communities," Bradley said.
The nonprofit estimates more than 110,000 Hoosier households are behind on rent and in danger of losing their homes. Many of them are Black and brown Hoosiers, low-income renters, women-led households, and families.
This is something Koffi Koevi knows all too well. He moved to Indiana from West Africa. He said the crisis has hit his community hard.
"Especially when you're from Africa, there's a lot of information we don't know," Koevi said.
Koevi said he has seen the evictions impact his neighbors' mental health and makes them feel less than human. He was one of several tenant advocates who met on Sunday to address the crisis.
"We cannot avoid it, but we can reduce it in the community," Koevi said.
They launched a court-watching toolkit that allows advocates to take action during the eviction process in court and create a record of the proceedings.
The extra set of eyes on landlord-tenant disputes and evictions is important.
"Bearing witness to the eviction crisis in Indiana and sharing that story helps us as advocates to take those stories to Indiana legislatures and say this is a top priority," Bradley said.
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Koevi plans to become a court watcher because he wants to see justice done.
"We are trying to get more information to see how we can help them and get them back on their feet," he said.
"This is a way you can take action and make sure your voice is heard and be part of the solution," Bradley said.
More information on Court Watcher's Toolkit can be found at this link.