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Kingfisher Institute hosts community forum on Creighton eviction research

Kingfisher Institute LogoCreighton University’s Kingfisher Institute hosted more than 50 participants in a virtual community discussion about evictions in Omaha.

The discussion, held Aug. 25 via Zoom, was the result of a partnership between Kingfisher and the Omaha Community Council for Racial Justice and Reconciliation (OCCRJR). It centered on recent research from University faculty that concludes evictions in Omaha disproportionately affect communities of color.

The report, “Understanding Evictions in Omaha,” was written by Pierce Greenberg, PhD, assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Cultural and Social Studies in Creighton’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Gary Fischer, BA’75, JD’79, a local attorney and former general counsel of the nonprofit Family Housing Advisory Services, Inc.

The discussion featured introductory remarks from Vickie Young, president of the Omaha NAACP, and Palma Joy Strand, JD, professor and director of Creighton’s 2040 Initiative in the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program. Strand, alongside several members of the Creighton community, are part of the OCCRJR steering committee, which includes leaders from across Omaha.

Greenberg delivered the main presentation of the evening, outlining the report’s key finding: Most of the city’s evictions occur in areas that were historically segregated, particularly in parts of traditionally African American North Omaha and in public housing complexes in the southwestern edge of downtown Omaha.

The findings are particularly noteworthy given the ongoing rise in eviction cases due to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which itself has been particularly devastating for communities of color. (The eviction report cites research that more than 80% of those who tested positive for COVID-19 as of June 2020 were non-white.)

“Evictions are not randomly distributed across space. They follow the line of racial segregation,” Greenberg said, referencing previous remarks by Strand about historically redlined areas of Omaha. “Evictions can have a devastating consequence on education, mental and physical health and this overall sense of community.”

The report outlines several areas to explore in the hopes of mitigating evictions and their effects among communities of color, Greenberg said. One is to ensure that more tenants have legal representation in eviction cases. Another is working to prevent evictions in public housing — the Omaha Housing Authority is the biggest evictor in the city.

Before the participants dispersed into breakout discussions, Greenberg said he and Fischer were hoping the report sparked a meaningful conversation. The report, he said, is part of a larger effort by Creighton’s Social Science Data Lab to pursue justice through research by partnering with community organizations.


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