By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia city officials have launched an effort to reduce the number of people who get evicted by their landlords.

The Eviction Prevention Project will provide information and legal help for tenants.

More than one in 14 renters in Philadelphia faced eviction in 2016, a rate that Mayor Jim Kenney called an “epidemic.”

“Families who lose their homes often end up in homeless shelters or housing that is less affordable and more dangerous than housing they’re forced to leave,” he said.

One key problem has been that landlords have the upper hand, while tenants who fight back have few resources and rarely have legal representation.

The city has squeezed $500,000 out of its budget to try to bring some balance to the equation.

Rasheedah Phillips of Community Legal Services, which is leading the effort, says it will include a live tenant helpline, streamlined intake, legal advice in landlord-tenant court, and financial counseling.

“Even having one or two additional lawyers and coordinating who we’re representing allows us to greatly expand our capacity beyond what we were working with before,” said Phillips.

The project will run for six months.

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