Introducing RITES: Studying Triage in Rhode Island Eviction Cases

Those of you who live in Greater Boston (and in other crowded urban areas across the globe) know just how hard finding affordable housing can be under the best of circumstances. Losing one’s housing on short notice makes the situation much, much harder.

Being evicted from a home is a traumatic experience, which causes a lot of harm in addition to displacement. From illness to job disruption to lost possessions, the ramifications can be life-changing. To prevent those impacts, we need to know more about who gets evicted, how effective different methods are at stopping or delaying evictions, and whether or not those solutions actually prevent the problems that we currently think eviction causes.

Learn more about our colleagues at CFJ.

So we decided to study it. We’ve been working closely with the Rhode Island Center for Justice (“CFJ”) this year to prepare a new RCT that will help us better understand how to serve those undergoing the eviction process in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Triage and Eviction Study (“RITES”) is one of the A2J Lab’s primary studies of triage. (For a previous discussion of triage, see this post.) This double randomization evaluation, the same we hope to use in the Intimate Partner Violence Triage Study, will ask how well lawyers make decisions about who most needs their services. Much like our other offer of representation studies, potential clients will either receive direct CFJ representation or a self-help packet. But the randomization scheme is different. After staff attorneys make their non-random decisions, potential clients will be randomly sorted (the first level) into two groups: one for whom the attorneys’ decision holds and another for whom a random decision will be followed (the second level). This approach will help CFJ and us understand what types of defendants do and do not need legal representation to obtain a continuance, a stay of execution, or even a win. We also will determine if legal representation increases the probability of success relative to the self-help packet. And, looking to the larger social impact of eviction, how well do any of those outcomes help prevent homelessness, illness, and a range of other potential consequences?

We’ll post more about the RCT as it nears its launch date. If you’re interested in learning more now, you can read this great article from the Providence Journal that describes the issue of eviction in Rhode Island and our work with the CFJ in more depth.

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