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Preventing eviction? The St. Louis case for starting with 211

Communities trying to prevent eviction during COVID-19 might be wise to work with 211. New analyses show a near perfect correlation between the number of calls to a 211 helpline for rent assistance in a given ZIP code, and the number of eviction filings in that ZIP code. We examined 16,544 requests to 211 for rent assistance received during COVID-19 from 59 ZIP codes in St. Louis City and County, in Missouri, where an eviction crisis is raging. We obtained the number of eviction filings in the same ZIP codes during the same time period. Correlations are measured on a scale from 0 (no correlation) to 1 (perfect correlation); the association between rent assistance requests and eviction filings shown in the top chart is .92. In addition to the ZIP code analysis, we examined rent assistance requests and eviction filings by week (bottom chart); again they were highly correlated (.61). Taken together, the findings show that requests to 211 for rent assistance are a marker for eviction filings. Tracking daily changes and locations of 211 requests using tools like 211 Counts could help communities focus their eviction prevention efforts and direct resources to precise locations. Mouse over each marker in the top chart to seen the 211 requests and eviction filings by ZIP code; mouse over the blue line and each bar in the bottom chart to see the same information by week. Special thanks to the Eviction Lab for its eviction tracking system which provided eviction data for these analyses. Eviction filings were aggregated by assigning census tracts to the ZIP codes that contained the highest percentage of total housing units for that tract. Data are reported from the week of March 15, 2020 through the week of January 17, 2021.

Peter Hepburn, Renee Louis, and Matthew Desmond. Eviction Tracking System: Version 1.0. Princeton: Princeton University, 2020.


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