In light of the current public health emergency, we wanted to reach out and send well wishes to you and your loved ones. We know that this is a time of uncertainty and anxiety for many people, and we are working to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are protected from what are sure to be long lasting effects. We wanted to briefly update you with resources and news about what we’ve been working on. While our team may not physically be together in our office, we are still coordinating with each other to call for solutions and policies that serve our communities and keep them safe in the long term. Even though there’s been some positive news on several fronts (including an end to water shutoffs in Detroit and a halt to evictions and foreclosures), so much work lies ahead to turn short-term fixes into lasting change. We look forward to building alongside all of you in the coming days.
We led an effort calling for a moratorium on evictions in Detroit spurred by our staff attorney Joe McGuire. You can find our statement here. We got good news quickly when the 36th District Court announced on Monday that it would stop all evictions. Joe is coordinating with attorneys in other counties to urge courts to halt evictions across the state. We continue to push to make sure that families who are most impacted by this crisis do not have to face more hardship. The White House has recently called on HUD to halt evictions and foreclosures through April, and we hope to see that time frame extended.
We began working with the Coalition for Property Tax Justice on a statement demanding a foreclosure moratorium, but fortunately, Wayne County announced that it would suspend all tax foreclosures this year. Given the potential financial impacts across the county we will continue to fight for a moratorium that extends beyond 2020.
Our Community Legal Workers have been working to reach out to every one of our property tax appeal clients, keeping them informed and gathering the information that we need for the March Board of Review. We remain on track to represent our clients in the Board of Review, arguing for relief from the burden of unconstitutional over-assessments.
Jail releases/reducing jail and prison populations
On Monday this week, we released a statement with Neighborhood Defender Service, the State Appellate Defender Office, and the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association calling for the immediate release of vulnerable people from Michigan jails and prisons, among other demands. We have also been working with a coalition of defense attorneys to identify lawyers willing to argue emergency bond motions. DJC has also contributed and signed onto several other joint statements with local and national partners:
Michigan Covid-19 Community Response and Policy Agenda
Letter to Governor Whitmer to Release Elderly and Vulnerable People from Prison in MI
Humanity Not Cages: Demanding a Just and Human Response to Outbreak
We’re heartened by news from other cities, such as LA, where fewer people are being jailed and arrested in response to advocates’ demands. We are pushing for Detroit to follow suit.
Our continuing work
Beyond all of this rapid response work, we’re holding up the usual work of supporting our clients, building internal support systems for our team, helping our people learn about co-ops (the Economic Equity Practice will host a virtual webinar on Friday), moving the Jails Task Force policy work forward, helping journalists tell better stories about this moment, and more.
For our community in the Metro Detroit area, there is a Covid-19 support group on Facebook with homeschooling resources, information regarding testing, supplies, and more.
For folks who are concerned about their loved ones who are incarcerated, the Prison Policy Initiative is compiling news regarding responses to Covid-19 from around the country.
For anyone experiencing unemployment because of closures in Michigan, this fact sheet explains how to collect unemployment benefits.
Anyone in Detroit who has had their water shut off is encouraged to call 313-386-9727 to get service restored.
We’re moved by how our communities are mobilizing to keep people safe and care for each other in this moment. We’re honored to keep fighting alongside you all.
The DJC team