Front-line organizations combating homelessness during COVID-19 are overwhelmed like never before. With over 40 million Americans filing for unemployment since mid-March and government interventions such as eviction moratoriums coming to an end in many states, teams are struggling to navigate the complicated territory of the growing demand for housing assistance.
A recent analysis projects an increase in homelessness by 40-45% over the next year, but many teams, including ours, are working together to prevent this from becoming our new reality. We have found rent relief to be the most effective solution to avoid an influx of homelessness right now.
The cost of supporting and sustaining families throughout a period of homelessness is exponentially higher than providing a few months of preventative rental assistance for our low-income neighbors. Funding rent affords families the margin needed to keep their homes and remain stable during this season of unemployment. Below you will see the costs of preventing homelessness compared to the costs of rehousing.
As our team works with several experts and practitioners to provide rent relief during COVID-19, we’re noticing two alarming trends:
1. It is incredibly difficult for front-line organizations to keep up with the constantly changing information, policies, and resources regarding their work.
From federal agencies to city mayors to legal aids to case managers, all parties involved in providing rental assistance are struggling to understand best relief practices. Regulations are continually shifting with little to no communication of the changes. National and local legislation is difficult to find and, once found, challenging to navigate.
The lack of accessibility paired with the rising demand leads to confused and frustrated teams spending more energy researching than in the field supporting families.
2. Many families are not aware of their rights as tenants.
The most vulnerable families right now are those who are not fully protected by eviction moratoriums. These families mainly consist of two populations. First, there are refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants seeking status. Second, there are families without formal leases, such as those living in extended-stay hotels. In all cases, families who don’t know their rights as renters are at risk.
Since many of these families are not aware of their tenant rights, some landlords are informally evicting them using fear-based tactics. Recently, one of our partners shared a story of a landlord asking a civilian to dress as a police officer and evict a family at gunpoint. The family in question complied, for fear of their lives. Families in this position often feel they have nowhere to turn to understand and access their rights and protection.
These two trends reveal the need for centralized resources so front-line organizations can better support families facing homelessness. Our team is working with multiple legal aid organizations to create Tenants “Know Your Rights” flyers to be published in the next couple of weeks. In addition, here are resources we have found to be most helpful:
Location-based resources regarding policy:
A legal aid search by location connects you with local organizations working to prevent evictions and reduce family homelessness. After a simple search, you will receive the contact information to organizations and know which of these services they provide: housing assistance, legal aid, tenant rights, education, and advocacy.
Federal Eviction Moratoriums
Through a searchable database, families can quickly see if their home is protected under the CARES Act eviction moratoriums. As of now, the map solely concentrates on apartments of multifamily properties.
Here you will find a continually updated table educating you on the latest policy changes relevant to your location. There is also a COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard to show you how your state’s policies compare to others.
National Housing Law Project
This extensive list of rights is a curation of resources for attorneys, advocates, and policymakers providing assistance during the crisis. A few categories of resources include COVID-19 litigation, tools for tenant advocates, and analysis of federal programs.
Protecting Immigrant Families
Learn the most helpful practices for supporting immigrant families through this resource. There is an easy-to-understand “Know Your Rights” page as well as educational material for how to protect your health during this crisis.
Claim a free card that provides a simple way for you to save money on prescription drugs. Since there are no eligibility requirements, everyone can receive discounts from nearly all pharmacies nationwide.
Helping Hands is a non-profit organization connecting healthy volunteers with vulnerable families in need of assistance. You make a request (such as grocery delivery or mail pick-up), are matched with a volunteer, and receive the support you need.
COVID-19 Health Literacy Project
In collaboration with Harvard Health Publishing, this project creates and translates COVID-19 information into over 30 languages. All material is free and vetted by physicians.
See a list of companies offering zero- and low-cost high speed internet access.
Assistance for Undocumented Communities
Provide better support for undocumented immigrants with this source covering extensive topics such as health access, relief funds, legal rights, and government updates.