Arreola has received some help from Voices United for Life, a pro-life organization. And in December, she joined online house meetings organized by the Valley Interfaith Project, a onetime Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization that now advocates for people facing eviction during the pandemic.
Valley Interfaith [Project], she said, has "given me a voice."
Advocacy on eviction prevention has become an important part of this work as well. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is affiliated with The Metropolitan Organization, a CCHD-fund grassroots organization that has taken on eviction prevention work since March.
St. John the Baptist Parish in Alvin, Texas, a Metropolitan Organization member, has provided partial rental support for about 30 families in which the primary earner has lost work as industries like construction and landscaping have retrenched under the pandemic.
For months advocates in Dallas have pushed officials to distribute rental assistance funds and expand the Centers for Disease Control moratorium on evictions. Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly has worked with CCHD-funded Dallas Area Interfaith on the effort.
"It's very harmful," Bishop Kelly said of the restrictions on accessing the money. "There's no need for it either. The funds are there."
Josephine Lopez Paul, lead organizer of Dallas Area Interfaith, said work continues on empowering and educating people about eviction prevention in the hope their voices will influence policymakers to better respond to their needs.
[Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]
With Evictions Looming, Agencies Furiously Work to Keep Families Housed, Angelus Catholic News Services [pdf]
...during the early portion of an Aug. 11 meeting of Pitkin County commissioners... representatives of the Mountain Voices Project — a consortium of more than 25 nonprofits, faith-based organizations and other entities in the Roaring Fork Valley — sought financial support for a new “landlord-tenant recovery fund” designed to assist low-income families struggling to make ends meet amid the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lindsay Lofaro, executive director of The Buddy Program in Aspen, was one of several speakers advocating for Pitkin County’s support of the fund. She got involved in facilitating the discussion, she said, because her nonprofit mentoring organization is a member of Mountain Voices Project (also known as MVP) — and also because of her familiarity with Pitkin County officials and local fundraising sources.
According to information provided by MVP, the overall request is for $1 million to get the program started this year...
The general plan calls for families to receive three months of rental assistance. MVP will supply one-third of the payments to landlords. The families themselves will pay one-third. The balance would be foregone by the landlords themselves, should they agree to participate. The Uncle Bob Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Garfield County Housing Authority, will serve as fiscal agent for the fund.
[Photo Credit: Andre Salvail, Aspen Daily News]
“When they want to ask for help from a nonprofit, and the staff only speaks English, they feel intimidated and don’t want to go on,” said Adriana Godines, a volunteer for Dallas Area Interfaith, a community group made up of religious congregations, schools and other nonprofits. “Even if I tell them that there will be no problem and they won’t ask for your Social Security, they prefer not to [ask for help].”
And even people who go to the justice of the peace courts, where eviction cases are heard, face similar hurdles.
“A lot of JP courts won’t have bilingual speakers,” said Lizbeth Parra-Davila, a housing fellow at the University of Texas School of Law. “Throughout Texas, that has been the case where I’ll call JP courts and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we don’t have any Spanish speakers. We don’t have any Spanish interpreters.’”
Godines has seen homes with 12 people living together as people who self-evict move in with loved ones.
“It’s people of all ages. Kids, adults, sometimes senior citizens,” she said.
Godines has worked with families searching for rental assistance, and she said that funds are running low among nonprofit organizations that are allowed to serve undocumented immigrants.
“We want to do more, but we don’t have more resources,” Godines said. “But the little that we have in this community, we give it.”
Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas explained that many priests and churchgoers have pooled together resources to pay for rent and food for undocumented migrants. But he, too, worries how long such resources will last.
“I don’t think we know yet how serious this is or how long it will last. When the city assistance program opened, the help available was overwhelmed in the first couple of hours,” Kelly said. “It could be a very lengthy situation. There’s so much uncertainty.”
[Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang, The Texas Tribune]
DAI Raises Alarm That Undocumented Immigrants are Self-Evicting, Texas Tribune [pdf]
Central Texas Interfaith & Austin Apartment Association Call for $100 Billion in Emergency Rental Relief
After distributing $1.2 million in May, the City of Austin’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department announced Tuesday $17.75 million will be available to help renters in the second round of the Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) Program.
The city will use a lottery system to pick funding recipients, so for people like Carlota Garcia with Central Texas Interfaith, the worry is about those who won’t get picked.
“No longer are we able to borrow from friends or borrow from family, savings accounts have been pillaged, there is no cushion left for people,” she said. “This moment has the potential to become disastrous.”
She said the state and the federal government should create a plan that gets those in need help beyond the next six months.
“In order for us to be able to prevent families from falling into starvation, or worse, we really need to have the federal government step up, as well as the statewide government..."
[Photo: Footage by KXAN]
Joint Statement on Emergency Rental Relief, Central Texas Interfaith & Austin Apartment Association
Over the objections of commercial landlords, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday granting renters additional time to repay back rent in response to a push by Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) and allies. As a result, residential and commercial tenants in Marin will have 90 days after a countywide moratorium on evictions expires on May 31 to repay back rent, plus added protections.
Said Reverend Tom Gable of Marin Lutheran Church and MOC:
“We are particularly supportive of the new language that prohibits harassment, allows tenants to self-certify their inability to pay, and requires tenants to be notified of their rights before a landlord can take action in court.”
However, leaders continue to push for more. According to MOC leaders, "90 days is an impossible timeline for renters to repay rent they missed during the shelter-in-place order. We risk spawning a second public health crisis if we allow Marin families to be thrown out of their homes as a result.”
Marin Tenants Given Extra 90 Days to Repay Back Rent, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Renters Allotted $1M More In Pandemic Aid, Marin Independent Journal
COPS/Metro representatives will be making the rounds with City Council staffers this week, pushing for a rent-control measure to reduce the stress weighing down working families during the COVID-19 outbreak.
With stay-at-home policies shutting down much of our business activity, the biggest victims have been hourly workers, many of whom have been employed in sectors (namely the service industry) where working from home is not an option, and where the money to meet payroll has dried up.
The problem is most acute for undocumented immigrants, whose jobs have been among the first to go, and who don’t have access to the kind of safety-net programs that are temporarily keeping others afloat.
[Specifically,] COPS/Metro is proposing an ordinance that would prohibit residential property owners from charging late fees for nonpayment of rent for the duration of the emergency disaster period declared by Gov. Greg Abbott. (The alliance’s draft ordinance would make this policy retroactive to March 13, the date that Abbott issued his initial disaster declaration.)
[Photo by Bob Owen, San Antonio Express-News]
Garcia: COPS/Metro Proposes Sweeping Late-Fees Protection for Renters, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
'Mountain Voices' Speaks Against Evictions, Displacement, Aspen Daily News [pdf]
'Mountain Voices' Levanta su Voz en Contra del Desalojo, Aspen Daily News [en español]
Rev. John Elford, senior pastor at University United Methodist, and David Guarino, of All Saints Episcopal, point out the effects of state action on homelessness in Austin.
This Thanksgiving, most of us will sit down with our loved ones for a feast in a cozy home. Outside, hundreds of our neighbors experiencing homelessness in Austin will be scrambling for a place to escape from the elements, both literal and political.
We of Austin’s faith community have frequent contact with our unsheltered neighbors, and they have taught us a great deal. They have shown that too many of us are just one or two paychecks and a run of bad luck away from the same fate. Our homeless neighbors have also taught us that we have a shared humanity that transcends circumstances.
Austin is at a critical moment in our fight to end homelessness. Recent attempts to revise the city’s old ordinances, which effectively criminalized everyday activities, brought people experiencing homelessness out of the shadows. It was hard to miss that our neighbors were suffering.
The response of the governor was to order the dismantling of encampments under state highways and provide a vacant lot off U.S. 183 as an alternative campground, far from the city’s social service and transportation hubs. As a result, many of our unhoused neighbors have been forced back to the woods, out of sight....
[Photo Credit: Jay Janner, Austin American Statesman]
Commentary: This Holiday, Let's Focus on Hope for Homeless, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Credited by the Marin Independent Journal for being "instrumental in convincing Marin County, San Rafael, and Fairfax to adopt renter protections" (including mandatory mediation and just cause for evictions), Marin Organizing Committee leaders are taking the fight to the City of Novato. At a press conference in front of City Hall, low-income senior leaders of a 128-unit Novato apartment called on the City to monitor the situation and support low-income tenants.
Over the last 16 years, residents have faced 13 rent increases -- the most recent of which being 15%. Resident leader Sharon Wagner-Higgins says that similar to other residents, she has to choose between her medications and affording rent. If nothing changes, she says, "I'm going to end up on the street."
“It makes no sense to tie the rents to the area median income in a place like Marin that has high income disparity,” says Marin Organizing Committee leader Judith Bloomberg. “These are people living on fixed incomes. They shouldn’t be punished because some workers in Mill Valley and Ross are making half-a-million each year.”
Leaders testified at City Hall to ask the Council to help ensure that the landlord keep their promise to meet with residents and negotiate in a good fair. Said tenants association leader John Geoghegan, “You folks have helped us in the past and we hope we can continue to count on your help in the future to ensure Novato remains age friendly for seniors.”
[Photo Credit: Alan Dep, Marin Independent Journal]
Low-Income Novato Seniors Rally Over Rent Hikes, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
There's a fight in federal court over the Omaha rental registry which was supposed to go into effect January 1st. Negotiated carefully with extensive input from Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) and local landlords, the registry would allow City inspectors to review a property, even those without a filed complaint, as one step to stop slumlords from taking advantage of tenants.
The registry was negotiated months after 500 refugees were forced out of apartments with 2,000+ code violations. Months before it was set to go into effect, the Metro Omaha Property Owners Association filed a suit against it.
OTOC leaders are now publicly challenging landlords to work with the community to ensure dignified housing for all Omahan residents.