Durham CAN’s (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) Affordable Housing Group started an eviction court watching program in 2019, when there were 9,948 evictions filed in Durham. Eviction is a harmful process that removes people from their homes while charging avoidable, sometimes erroneous fees, and regardless of the court’s ruling, eviction filings stay on a person’s record for 7 years. The project slowed during the pandemic when evictions were postponed, but is currently ramping up since the federal moratorium on evictions was struck down in August.

Court-Watch volunteers simply listen or take notes. The simple action of listening in on proceedings provides necessary oversight and accountability over a harmful system; Court-Watchers’ presence in court rooms has been shown to favorably alter magistrates’ treatment of tenants.

To learn more, watch a training video and sign up, click here. New volunteers will be initially paired with an experienced person.

The three goals of the Court-Watching Campaign are:

  1. Research: We want to understand the causes of evictions in Durham, and to hear the stories of those most affected. The experiences of Court Watchers and the stories shared by those facing eviction inspired our actions to reform DHA’s eviction policy.
  2. Intervention: We provide oversight and accountability over this part of the justice system to ensure equitable treatment of residents.
  3. Leadership development: Court Watching participants will grow comfortable interacting with city and county officials, building relationships with our neighbors, and developing ideas for change.

Contact person, Erin Light, evictions@durhamcan.org