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Jacksonville veteran facing eviction receives help just in time

Eric Strickland was 24 hours away from being evicted when Jacksonville Area Legal Aid came to the rescue.

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — Eric Strickland served our country for 13 years with 4 overseas deployments in the United States Army. 

Currently, he's on disability from his job as a truck driver after dealing with a heart issue. He was served with an eviction notice after falling behind on rent. 

"I always keep this with me, that's why I still have it," said Strickland while holding onto the American Flag that was given to him during his father's funeral.

 Strickland served in the Army during the Persian Gulf War, his father was in the military during WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

He packed up his entire apartment with the threat of being evicted just one day away. 

Strickland is also a single father who is on disability from his job as a truck driver after a series of heart attacks. The disability payments don't cover the cost of his rent, and trying to get help through 'Our Florida' was extremely frustrating. 

"It takes three, sometimes four hours to get through, and you're on hold for two to three hours," said Strickland about his phone calls with Our Florida representatives."... Sometimes they don't help you out, they'll put you on hold and disconnect the call."

Strickland received an eviction notice, but before he gave up hope, he reached out to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid

Within a matter of days, an attorney walked him through the steps of making sure his landlord would receive his Our Florida payments.

"It's a big relief," said Strickland, "as you can see, I moved everything out because I didn't want to come with a padlock on my door and my stuff in a dumpster." 

He owes past due rent dating back to January, but his Our Florida payments will ensure that he's able to stay in his apartment through at least the end of May.

While Strickland unpacks his belongings, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid continues to help others in the community.

"The highest best use of civil legal aid is housing," said Jacksonville Area Legal Aid CEO Jim Kowalski. "That's really the core piece of our mission. You can't do all of the other things we need as citizens unless you have stable affordable housing. Where we've played that roll in securing housing is our best work."

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid created a website called FloridaEvictionHelp.org that helps Florida tenants facing eviction. The tenant fills out information on the website, and then the website creates an answer for the court after an eviction order has been filed by the landlord.

Strickland said that he wants to work again as a truck driver and added that doctors believe he should be able to make enough of a recovery from his heart issues to go back to work. 

In the meantime, he's grateful for the help of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid for their assistance with his eviction.

"I encourage all the people who are going through what I'm going through to make sure to call the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid office," said Strickland. "It's been so much of a relief, right now I can probably go to sleep tonight because I haven't gotten any rest for the last 3 months."

For a full list of resources provided by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, click here to visit their website.

Click here for their specific website regarding eviction assistance.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid has a network of 35 lawyers working in 3 different offices across North East Florida. The phone number for their downtown Jacksonville office is: (904) 356-8371.  The phone number for their St. John's County office is: (904) 827-9921.  And the phone number for their Clay County office is: (904) 284-8410.

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