We spoke with Ona Lawrence, our Early Resolution Specialist, to learn more about the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program (ERPP) in Klickitat and Skamania Counties and to find out what draws Ona to her work as Early Resolution Specialist.
What does an early resolution specialist do?
As the Early Resolution Specialist, I work to help parties resolve their disputes informally, bring together all necessary resources for the tenant and landlord to be able to peacefully negotiate a sustainable settlement. We work closely with our ERPP partners, Washington Gorge Action Program (rent relief) and NW Justice, Clark County Volunteers Lawyers and the Washington State Attorney General Landlord-Tenant Office to connect parties to all resources needed.
What do you find rewarding about working with the ERPP and/or Six Rivers?
First off, I am proud to be part of the ERPP. Washington is the first and only state to offer tenants behind on their rent the right to pre-court dispute resolution services.
For tenants facing eviction, even the filing of a court action has negative impacts such as bad credit reports, background checks for housing, employment, and stress, trauma, and anxiety. For landlords, the economic impact of non-payment of rent can be serious and long term.
Helping people connect with resources that bring them secure housing is very gratifying.
I have been involved in community mediation for 10 years. Mediating, helping people find peaceful resolution to conflict continues to be fulfilling and wonderful work. As a relatively new person at Six Rivers, I am so pleased to be working with a solid team of people that are involved in community and bringing mediation and restorative services to our communities.
What is your background, and how has it influenced your work at Six Rivers?
I have training in both Family and Civil Mediation and Restorative Justice. As the program director of the St Cloud, MN Community Mediation Center, I worked to build a center that was connected to our community, serving remarkably diverse cultural and community needs. During those years I was able to contract with the school district to bring restorative justice programing, as well as trauma-informed and culturally-sensitive training to staff. We created a mediation program for students and trained college students as mediators to staff the schools. We also worked closely with the courts to mediate parenting time cases for low-income residents, cases from conciliation and housing court.
What hopes do you have for the ERPP and Six Rivers?
I hope to continue to build relationships in Klickitat and Skamania Counties, bring the gift of mediation and facilitation to our communities, and continue to work with our ERPP partners to bring peace and security to tenants and landlords dealing with housing.
For more information about the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program, please contact Ona at (541) 386-1283 x2 or . You may also visit our ERPP webpage at www.6rivers.org/tenant-landlord-assistance/wa-erpp/