Staff Spotlight: Linda Paugh Receives Award For Eviction Mediation Work
December 22, 2022
HERSHEY, PA – A unique program at Pocono Mountains United Way (PMUW) received statewide recognition earlier this month from the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. Linda Paugh was presented with the Eviction Prevention and Diversion Award on December 7 in Hershey for implementing an innovative program in response to the pandemic that stabilizes families who would otherwise be displaced by eviction.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first started, many Americans temporarily lost their jobs and didn’t have the income to stay on top of their bills. The amount of people facing eviction or in jeopardy of being displaced grew quickly, and Linda decided to find a way to be part of the solution. By September of 2020 the program was up and running and the first mediation was held that October.
“This mediation program at PMUW is very unique because I found early on that many landlords did not want to take the time to meet in-person but were willing to speak on the phone. I do a combination of in-person, Zoom, and on the phone mediations,” said Paugh. “I am serving more people as a result. It is an innovative approach. I speak to both parties and determine the best way to mediate for their situations.”
Since October 2020, Linda has helped an average of 10 families per month, but January 2021 was her busiest period, when she helped 40 families including 91 people.
Each situation is different, and every person that Linda works with has their own unique story. The program offers assistance to renters with income below $79,100 that are facing possible evictions, so Linda is helping a variety of people that could be working full-time, part-time, unemployed, or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE).
“I believe that the success comes from my ability to listen, assess what is being said, ask the important questions, and my qualities of empathy and compassion show through,” said Linda. “I have a soft and calm voice which speaks volumes. People respond very well as a result. I let them know at the beginning that I am a neutral party which puts all at ease.”
Since Linda does not work for the tenant nor the landlord, she is in a unique position to help the two parties communicate and find a solution. In fact, she has a 98% success rate at keeping a tenant housed an average of 30-days after mediating and helping find a solution to the situation. In total, 266 families and 682 people have remained housed because of the Landlord-Tenant Eviction Mediation Program.
“I felt very honored to have my work recognized on the state level,” said Linda. “It is my hope that other counties that have heard my story will consider starting a similar program to help those facing eviction in their communities.”
To learn more about the work the Landlord-Tenant Eviction Mediation Program is doing in communities throughout Monroe County, watch this video that Housing Alliance of PA made for her award presentation.