The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and the National Organization for Women (NOW), along with advocates, tenants, and community leaders will gather in late October, in Washington, DC, and communities across the country to push for the prevention of anyone falling into homelessness.
“The homeless social service sector cannot accommodate any more people during this national health emergency with rising levels of COVID-19 in many communities. There are millions of dollars sitting on the table from the federal government and we need state and local officials to move mountains to get rental assistance out to those facing evictions,” said NCH executive director Donald Whitehead.
In August, CNBC reported 11 million households are behind on their rent, but even if only 1 million get evicted the homeless shelters and services will collapse. Whitehead said that shelters have had to de-concentrate due to the pandemic and do not have the means of taking more people in to provide a safe place to stay while they look to find other housing options.
We are urging the Governors to do whatever they can to stop any evictions into homelessness or they will see the huge rise in those living outside that Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, Austin, and Phoenix have seen over the last year.
As of Thursday, August 26, 2021, the federal moratorium on evictions related to COVID was lifted. As many as 35 million people in the United States, whose livelihoods have been negatively impacted by pandemic-related economic shut down, are at risk of homelessness.
What’s more, there are hundreds of thousands of people and families who were placed into hotel rooms with CARES Act funding that is due to expire. Many of these folks will be forced back onto the streets, and into congregate shelters, with desperately increased risk of contracting COVID.
This is a massive economic and public health crisis, disproportionately affecting people of color. We must protect individuals and families – and especially our children and youth.
What we Know
Without safe housing, millions of people will be forced into congregate settings, increasing the risk of transmitting COVID-19, at a time when hospitals are operating at capacity.
Lack of capacity at the state and local level, combined with bureaucratic red tape, has prevented up to 75% of aid from the Federal government from reaching renters and desperate to maintain their housing.
Even though it is illegal, there is the danger that families forced back into homelessness risk losing custody of their children. Studies have shown overwhelmingly that safe housing has more to do with a child’s wellbeing and achievement than any other single factor.
People who are unhoused face targeted enforcement and criminalization of life-sustaining activities. This over-criminalization separates families, eliminates employment options and further jeopardizes the mental and physical health of those affected.
What has been done
Through the CARES Act and the American Recovery Plan, the federal government has allocated over $85 Billion to housing and homelessness programs, including $25 billion specifically for Emergency Housing Vouchers. Many communities have used these recovery dollars to house folks temporarily in hotel and motel rooms, and further secure individual housing accommodations. But many of these programs are closing and people are being returned to congregate shelters or the streets.
The U.S. Treasury has provided explicit direction to local agencies distributing funds to allow renters and landlords to attest to their need without onerous documentation. The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Veterans Affairs (VA) have also taken action to protect and support vulnerable renter households. The Secretaries of HUD and Treasury, along with the Attorney General, wrote a letter to governors, mayors, county Executives, and chief Justices and state court administrators to issue their own moratoria, stay evictions while rental assistance applications process, and use ERA and State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to enhance tenant access to legal representation.
But we know that landlords and eviction courts are eager to start processing evictions that have been held up. We know too that without legal representation, tenants overwhelmingly are not able to exercise their full rights to remain in housing.
What we Need
NOW and NCH are urging local and state elected officials to assign additional staff, enlist every housing non-profit in their communities to get this money to the people in need! Additionally, struggling Americans need:
- Congress to pass legislation halting any eviction until ERA and Recovery applications are fully processed.
- Emergency Rental Assistance and other recovery programs should assume presumptive eligibility, instead of forcing long drawn out documentation of need.
- Landlords should get paid all back rent, either through direct payment and/or tax credit within 30 days.
- There needs to be broad civic education on renter rights and eviction and homelessness prevention, in addition to ending and addressing the underlying causes of poverty and homelessness.
The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), founded in 1981, is the oldest national organization focused on ending homelessness in America. It is a national network of people currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to their mission of: To end and prevent homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected. NCH’s advocacy addresses the root causes of homelessness including lack of affordable housing, and partnering to write landmark legislation including the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987.
The National Organization for Women is the largest grassroots organization of feminist activists in the United States. NOW has hundreds of thousands of contributing supporters and members in chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since its founding in 1966, NOW’s purpose is to take action through intersectional grassroots activism to promote feminist ideals, lead societal change, eliminate discrimination, and achieve and protect the equal rights of all women and girls in all aspects of social, political, and economic life.