Mariners donate $3M to reduce evictions in King County

SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners announced they are donating $3 million to a fund to help reduce the number of evictions in King County -- one of the leading causes of homelessness.

The donation is seed money to get the program, known as Home Base, off the ground with the hopes of growing it to $10 million.

The fund can be used to pay back rent to a landlord in a tenant's name, cover outstanding debts and resolve a pending eviction.

The United Way of King County will be administering the money, and the King County Bar Association’s volunteer attorney program, the Housing Justice Project, will offer legal help.

Faced with a financial emergency such as an illness, death or temporary job loss, along with high rents, many low-income renters in King County have few options and little time to come up with rent. In Washington, it's legal for landlords to file evictions in as little as three days after rent is due.

Someone in that predicament said at a Friday news conference that medical bills put him behind on rent and nearly caused him to be evicted.

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"As a person who doesn't know about tenants’ rights altogether that much, I still don’t know how anyone can be evicted for being sick. But I’m grateful for this help," said Joda Long.

Though the project is currently funded by the Mariners, United Way said it would be reaching out to other community groups to grow that money.

The King County Bar Association says it hopes that eventually, the money will help 4,000 people a year avoid eviction.

A King County Bar Association and Seattle Women’s Commission study in September found 87 percent of eviction filings were because of nonpayment of rent, with about three-quarters of those cases involving an average of $1,237 or less owed to the landlord.

The same study found that people of color and women face eviction disproportionately.