Homeless Coalition to honor judge, program director

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The Macomb Homeless Coalition (MHC) will honor Macomb County 37th District Court Judge Matthew P. Sabaugh and Valerie Nunn, director of Macomb County’s Department of Human Services (DHS), for their work on the court’s Eviction Diversion Program (EDP).

Sabaugh and Nunn will be honored at MHC’s annual fundraising dinner at Villa Pennas in Sterling Heights on Thursday, Nov. 20, according to Kelly Bidelman, managing attorney of the Macomb County office of Legal Aid and Defender Association (LAD) in Mount Clemens and a member of MHC’s board of trustees.

The court, DHS, MHC and Macomb County Community Services Agency (MCCSA) launched the EDP in Warren and Centerline in March. It’s is a voluntary program to help landlords and tenants resolve disputes over unpaid rent without court judgments that damage tenant credit ratings.

When a landlord serves a tenant with an eviction complaint, the tenant is directed to contact the EDP, which arranges a meeting with the tenant, the landlord and the EDP’s community partners, including the DHS, MHC, MCCSA, and church and other charitable organizations. The tenant receives on-the-spot approval for financing by one or more of the community partners. The court then places the case on a special docket, and a LAD staff attorney negotiates a conditional dismissal with the landlord.

“As of July, 22 families were assisted with rental arrearages totaling approximately $30,000, for an average cost of about $1,300 each to divert the eviction,” Bidelman said.

Tom Hartwig, a staff attorney in LAD’s Macomb office, negotiated a conditional dismissal in August with  landlords Michael and Andrea D’Angelo of Sterling Heights and tenant Alex McClendon of Warren.

“It’s a win-win for the landlord and the tenant,” Hartwig said. “It allows the landlord to retain a good tenant and allows the tenant to get caught up on outstanding rent. If the tenant pays the rent, the case is dismissed and there’s no eviction on record.”

In hearing before Judge Dean J. Ausilio in 37th District Court, the parties agreed that either the community partners would pay the arrearages or the tenant would be responsible for payment. The judge then dismissed the case without prejudice.

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