Helping Families Facing Eviction | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

Helping Families Facing Eviction

United Way’s Ashley Brundage doesn’t mince words when she talks about the possibility of a housing crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic: “The cliff is looming,” and families are about to start toppling over, said Brundage, senior vice president of community impact at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

One in 20 families are facing evictions, and one in 11 black families face eviction, according to a late-July NPR story.

The rent money’s just not there. An estimated 659,000 Texans lost their jobs between February and May, according to a new study by Families USA, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy group. Dallas residents, many of whom have no financial safety net, face an unemployment rate as high as 15 percent, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, and a disproportionate of those lost jobs were previously held by low- to moderate-income residents. Some Southern Dallas zip codes are predicted to see unemployment rates rise to 22 percent, according to a recent article in The Dallas Morning News. Roughly 40 percent of North Texans pay monthly rent to a landlord or property management company.

EARLY CORONAVIRUS RENTAL-AID PROGRAMS ARE EXPIRING

Emergency stopgap protections put in place to help those laid off or fired during the early phases of the coronavirus crisis are expiring, with no end to the pandemic in sight.

The statewide Texas moratorium on evictions ended May 19, and the federal CARES Act 120-day moratorium on evictions on homes bought with federally backed mortgages also has ended. In addition to the CARES Act’s protection against evictions, it funded an additional $600 a week for those receiving unemployment benefits, but that expired in July. Congress is now debating whether to fund another iteration of CARES, possibly with extended additional unemployment benefits (although the amount may be decreased to $200 a week) and a second round of economic stimulus checks of an unknown amount. (The first checks were $1,200 for every American citizen over the age of 18 whose 2019 income was less than $99,000. Thousands of Americans have yet to receive theirs because of glitches in the government’s disbursement system).

SOME BRIGHT SPOTS

On July 24, Dallas County Health and Human Services announced the reopening of the Emergency Housing Assistance Program. This provides short-term rental, mortgage and utility assistance to Dallas County residents living outside the city of Dallas who face economic hardship because of the pandemic. The application process will close Aug. 20. To apply, visit https://www.dallascounty.org/ehap.

A BEACON: THE UNITED WAY DALLAS RENTAL ASSISTANCE COLLABORATIVE

If the Dallas city and county programs are pinpoint of light, United Way hopes to provide a bright beacon with its Dallas Rental Assistance Collaborative (DRAC). The new program is funded through $4.8 million in grants from the City of Dallas Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Department and the Office of Community Care, with funds from the CARES Act Emergency Housing Assistance Program. The collaborative’s goal is to reach the hard to reach—families that have immigrated here, those that don’t speak English, and those in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. Lifting people out of housing insecurity and homelessness aligns with United Way’s goal of creating opportunity for all North Texans by improving education, income and health.

DRAC Phase 1 launched July 1, funded by a $866,500 grant for rental assistance only. Our partners in this phase are Catholic Charities, CitySquare, Community Council of Greater Dallas, Harmony CDC, Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas and the Salvation Army.

Phase 2 is supported by a $1.15 million grant and will be launched this month. Partners in this phase are Catholic Charities, CitySquare, Harmony CDC, Metrocrest Services, the Salvation Army and the Wilkinson Center.

Phase 3 will be funded by a recent third grant of $2.763 million, which will let us help with both rent and utilities.

Partners for the third phase are Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, Catholic Charities, the Chocolate MINT Foundation, CitySquare, Gateway of Grace, Harmony CDC, the Housing Crisis Center, Literacy Achieves, Services of Hope, Sharing Life, the Turnaround Agenda and the Wilkinson Center.

EVEN MORE IS NEEDED

While these grants may provide short-term relief, a broader view is needed for long-term alleviation of evictions and homelessness, Brundage said. “The need that existed across our city has only been exacerbated by this pandemic,” she said.

As we move through the coronavirus and beyond, there needs to be a substantial—in the billions—investment in housing support for renters that prevents them from ever missing a payment. Eviction moratoriums don’t fix missed payments, rather delay the inevitable, and they put a burden on landlords who are not all big property-management companies.

“Families won’t magically come up with the funds needed to pay the rent they’ve missed over the past several months,” Brundage said.

Also, she said, there needs to be required mediation in evictions, with facilitated access to emergency and legal assistance. This should also include a push to enable expungement of eviction proceedings from any legal record, to prevent lasting harm. Many landlords won’t rent to families with a history of eviction.

Finally, she said, “Families need for us to trust and invest in them. Give them financial assistance and freedom to make the investments that are best for them.”

Read more about the Dallas Rental Assistance Collaborative, including how to apply for rental and utility assistance. 

Read a recap of the Housing Responds conversation hosted by SVP Dallas. 

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United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is a community-based social change organization that puts opportunity in the hands of all North Texans. Working with our determined supporters, we lead the charge to improve education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. We invite all change-seekers in our community to Live United to achieve lasting results right here at home.

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This article was published on: Aug 18, 2020