The Federal Eviction Moratorium Has Lifted. Now What?
Joseph, a single father of four kids, worked in a restaurant prior to the COVID-19 pandemic starting and while it wasn’t much, he was able to provide the basics like food, housing, and plenty of love for his little family. But after the pandemic hit, his restaurant closed and he found himself struggling to find a new job that would use the same skills he’d relied on for years. After 18 months of surviving on partial unemployment, filing for rental assistance that was ultimately rejected by his landlord, and working with nonprofits to figure out new solutions, Joseph and his family are finally and stably housed.
According to data collected for the Census Bureau’s biweekly Household Pulse Survey, 264,907 adults in North Carolina believe there’s a high likelihood that they’ll face eviction or foreclosure in the next two months.
Joseph was once one of them. His story is unique, not because he struggled to find employment during the pandemic but because he received state-funded financial support when he was desperate.
With few easy-to-understand government-funded resources available to help people in need, nonprofits are now panicking for quick solutions that will prevent people from becoming homeless.
According to DataWorks NC, April through June of 2020 saw fewer than 500 evictions filed in Durham within a given month. Additionally, “during those months, zero writs of possession were filed, the second formal eviction process in which the Sheriff removes tenants and their belongings from a home.” The federal eviction moratorium was the reason.
But the moratorium merely prevented evictions from proceeding; it did not prevent landlords from filing with the court. When the moratorium was lifted, it opened the floodgates for the backlog of more than 77,000 evictions filed in North Carolina between July 2020 to June 2021 to move forward. 2,700 of those were in Durham alone.
Poverty by definition is “the state of being extremely poor” but it’s far more than just having less money than is needed to live a full and stable life. It’s a lifestyle that leads to exorbitant challenges. Think of it as a boulder rolling downhill. First you’re already struggling to pay bills and put food on the table. Then you lose your job and with little to no reserves, you panic about how to care for yourself and your loved ones. This can lead to mental and physical health challenges, loss of housing, and so much more. Add a pandemic to the situation — during which you’re dealing with those challenges while also living in fear of catching COVID-19 (and how to pay for that hospital bill if you do) — and most people would struggle.
“You can’t understand the trauma of what that is until you’re in it. You have to figure out your daily living, your further than daily living, and then add some children into that,” explains Donna Carrington, Executive Director of Community Empowerment Fund. “It’s a whole mess, plus [you have the added challenge of] being afraid of what a pandemic will do, because most of us haven’t lived long enough to experience one previously.”
The eviction moratorium made it possible for families in that situation to try and take care of other needs before addressing their housing situations. But there wasn’t enough time.
Who is helping?
Community Empowerment Fund, a United Way-funded nonprofit, has been supporting Durham and Orange County residents experiencing poverty throughout the pandemic. By bridging the communications and funding gaps between tenants and landlords, they’ve been able to help 286 individuals access emergency rental assistance, financial support while unemployed, and so much more.
But there’s only so much they can do. Donna Carrington, Executive Director, is clear about one thing: if state-funded solutions aren’t implemented as soon as possible, the Triangle will be dealing with a homeless crisis.
How you can help:
Prior to the pandemic, Durham already didn’t have enough housing units needed to ensure that everyone has a safe and affordable place to live. Without proper rental assistance support to fall back on, Carrington is concerned that families are going to end up in the homeless system which, she says, already has few resources.
Where are people going to go?
Community Empowerment Fund and other nonprofits are calling on Durham’s Mayor Schewel and the Durham City Council to implement an eviction moratorium in Durham County. They’re asking for your support. Here’s what you can do:
- Write a letter to your city representative stating your support of an eviction moratorium until proper resources can be allocated to support individuals needing financial and housing support to survive.
- Write a letter to your city representative urging the Department of Social Services to institute a second round of funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
- Donate to nonprofits supporting affordable housing initiatives in your region.
To learn more about Community Empowerment Fund, visit https://communityempowermentfund.org/