Ellen Sahli

Bio Picture of Ellen Sahli

For the 2019 fellowship, the Urban Institute has selected Ellen Sahli, president of the Family Housing Fund (FHFund) A team of Urban researchers, led by senior policy associate Maya Brennan, will work with Sahli and her staff to examine the effectiveness of eviction prevention services prior to a court filing.

Meet Ellen Sahli

Ellen began her career in social services, working with homeless individuals, and later moved to the Corporation for Supportive Housing, where she began to pursue systems level change to support the housing needs of Chicago’s residents.  She also worked for the City of Chicago for 12 years, including serving as Chicago’s Department of Housing Commissioner, her tenure starting as the foreclosure crisis hit Chicago. Her leadership positioned Chicago as a national example of foreclosure remediation, securing the largest award of federal funds in the country and working collaboratively with nonprofit developers, neighborhood organizations, and teams of lenders. Ellen joined the Family Housing Fund in 2015, after serving as Chief Housing Officer at the Chicago Housing Authority.

Family Housing Fund

FHFund’s mission is to help the affordable housing network adapt to the needs of families in complex and constantly changing conditions.  They have launched a compelling new intervention to combat evictions in the form of a new Housing Clinic at Ramsey County Housing Court.  Working with several partners for a year and a half prior to launch, they identified opportunities to reduce evictions and increase housing stability, with a primary focus on the private rental market. The new Housing Court Clinic brings services on site to support low-income tenants at the last moment possible to avoid an eviction writ and/or loss of housing. Volunteer lawyers are on hand to answer questions from tenants; volunteer mediators are available to help landlords and tenants address disputes and work toward settlement agreements; and a Ramsey County Emergency Assistance worker is available to take financial assistance applications to help close the financial gap. Additionally, the Court has changed a number of its processes to better inform and equip litigants for their court appearances. Three months into this pilot effort, early indicators point to a reduction in eviction. Notably, all parties point to the presence of Emergency Assistance as a game changer and the most critical factor in avoiding eviction at Court.

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