Some families saw rent rise upwards of $300 this month, according to the Community Action Agency in Cincinnati. The reaction from some landlords toward people struggling to pay surprised some advocates who see a new trend.
"One of the things we are seeing as of late is landlords evicting clients before they even get to end of the month on their rents and filing for eviction," said Dr. Ebony Griggs-Griffin, vice president of community services for the Community Action Agency (CAA).
Such pressure is pushing families into tough choices. For better or worse, Bruce and Amber Winstead vowed to make sure their 7-year-old daughter always has a home, even with rising rent ripping their budget apart.
"It hurts because I can really talk on it," Bruce Winstead said. "It's because you have to prepare yourself monthly through food."
Their landlord asked for an extra $100 in rent last month. Amber, a part-time warehouse worker and Bruce, who owns a small music company, are now forced to spend money that used to be earmarked for groceries on rent.
They said they find it easier to obtain food assistance than help making rent payments.
"It (is not) just with (Hamilton County) Job and Family Services," Amber said. "(There are) other resources with food. You go to the Free Store around the corner, Goodwill, places like that. (There are) places where you can get food, clothes, whatever."
Griggs-Griffin said CAA clients saw rents rise as much as an extra $300 a month without warning.
"It's almost sickening," she said. "It hurts my stomach some of the stories that we hear and some of the stories that we see."
While CAA offers rental assistance through a pandemic-related grant program that has funding through September, they have a queue of clients waiting for service. Also, CAA has many more applying each day, Griggs-Griffin said.
The agency operates its own food pantry four times a week and offers Kroger vouchers to help struggling families.
Advocates recommended those facing significant challenges to affording their rent attempt to negotiate with landlords or consult the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati to better understand renter rights.
"We have clients who are now staying in hotels or staying with their families until they can find a place that's affordable for them to rent and they are really struggling with where is the affordable house for us to move into," said Griggs-Griffin.
The Winsteads have no plans to move. Instead, they are pinching pennies elsewhere to try to build savings.
"My greatest fear is, I would say surviving but you just have to push through it," Amber Winstead said.