Federal eviction moratorium comes with many questions for ArkLaTex renters

Eviction prevention assistance

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Questions are swirling about what impact the White House order, to halt evictions for some renters through the end of the year, could have for renters in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, announced the four-month moratorium on residential evictions, citing a public health law intended to prevent the spread of illness.

The move comes as an estimated 30 to 40 million Americans could face eviction in the next several months without government assistance, according to a report released by the Aspen Institute.

The federal eviction protection comes with several requirements.

That moratorium runs through December 31 and applies to individuals earning less than $99,000 a year and who are not able to make rent or housing payments.

Even then, then the ultimate decision still rests will local courts.

That’s why many nervous families, fearful of eviction, have recently turned to the Providence House, a family homeless shelter in Shreveport.

That’s because the agency has received funding through city and parish governments to prevent homelessness.

Seeing an eviction notice taped on your door is a nightmare scenario all-too-many Americans are expected to experience this year. It just happened to Shreveport renter Mary Rankin.

“I cried. I broke down. I cried because I did not want to lose everything.”

That notice instructed Rankin to appear in court this week. We met her just an hour before that hearing, in which she described what this has been like for her.

“It’s very scary. I don’t sleep at night. I can’t sleep. They put me on anxiety medication, my doctors have. It’s Just gut-wrenching.”

Rankin says she reached out to the Providence House in Shreveport for any kind of financial assistance that’s available.

Providence House’s Executive Director Verni Howard, says Rankin does qualify for homelessness prevention funds from the federal government, through the city of Shreveport.

“We have about 46 thousand dollars, not for Providence House residents, to prevent homelessness. So it’s for the community. For, you know, people who are, you know, maybe just one paycheck away or maybe just hit a little bump in the road.”

Howard says they have also received help from the Caddo Parish Commission, as well.

“And we received an additional $112,500 to help those people that perhaps didn’t meet the threshold of the federal guideline funds, that we can, you know, help with this other bucket of money. And specifically, we’re helping with rental support and utility support.”

Rankin tells us she just feels blessed for having stumbled upon information about Providence House and how they may be able to help her from landing on the streets, homeless, all because she’s lost her job because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a random Facebook post off Love Shreveport-Bossier, the Facebook page, that I saw Ms. Verni’s message. And it was kind of God that sent me to that Facebook post to get in touch with her.”

We also reached out to the National Apartment Association for their take on the burgeoning eviction crisis.

State Director Tammy Esponge says hers is the only industry being asked to wholly absorb the costs of no incoming rent. But she totally supports payment assistance.

“They’re not asking the insurance companies to waive our premiums. They’re certainly not asking the tax assessor’s office to waive our property taxes. They’re not asking any, anyone else to give away groceries, or give away medical service. Why are we expected to give away rent and not charge rent. That’s what I, we’re trying to understand.”

While the news came on this Wednesday, September 2, that the White House has ordered the halting of evictions for certain renters through the end of the year, critics have countered that the order will only delay evictions, not prevent them.

And local courts will still determine if local cases qualify for the moratorium.

And court was exactly where Mary Rankin was headed on this day, to let the judge know Providence House is helping with her rent.

“I did not want to lose everything. The house is packed. It’s all boxed. And I don’t know if I go or stay. Or, if I do go, I don’t know where I’m going to go. I might end up having to put everything in storage and finding, you know, someplace me and my cats can go. It’s, it’s hard.”

Just hours after speaking with Rankin she called and informed us the judge threw out the eviction case against her, and allow Providence House to pay the balance of her rent.

As for Providence House, Howard says there is only a finite amount of money available to help with rental assistance, to avoid homelessness. So, it is first come first serve.

Copyright 2020 KSLA. All rights reserved.