LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, Ind. – Indiana officials are trying to help Hoosiers facing eviction access legal services.

Judge Kimberly Bacon of Lawrence Township Small Claims Court estimates more than 80% of the tenants who come through her courtroom do not have legal representation.

“It’s really important for them to have access to resources for, number one, to explain what you’re about to encounter, but, number two, get that legal advice to assist you,” Judge Bacon said.

And the need for that kind of guidance has grown, Bacon said.  The number of eviction filings coming through her courtroom has doubled since this time last year, she said.

“We want to make sure that we’re creating soft landings and good outcomes for both sides,” Judge Bacon said.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) and the Indiana Bar Foundation have teamed up to install legal kiosks throughout the state.

The kiosks are free to use and allow people to fill out forms and connect with a legal navigator, who can provide guidance through the process, explained Jacob Sipe, executive director of the IHCDA.

“I think really the goal is to make sure it’s accessible for anyone who needs to go through or is going through any type of judicial process,” Sipe said.

At least one kiosk will be installed in each county, Sipe said, and they’ll be located in public places, such as libraries and courthouses.

Crews will install 120 legal kiosks statewide beginning this month, Sipe said, adding that he hopes to eventually expand.

The state is using $13 million in federal COVID relief funds for the program, according to the IHCDA.

“It’s going to help people, but it’s also going to help the system,” said Charles Dunlap, president and CEO of the Indiana Bar Foundation. “It’ll help the legal system be more efficient, it’ll help individuals know and understand their rights, and it will hopefully give additional resources to people that are looking for them.”