CINCINNATI — Last week, WCPO 9 News reported on the dilemma of Monica Barnes. The nursing student was eight months pregnant and furloughed by her employer due to COVID-19. As she waited for her stimulus and unemployment checks to arrive, she found herself with no income and unable to pay her rent. She received an eviction notice in April.
“Monica’s situation is one that a lot of people face,” said Greg Landsman, Cincinnati City Council member.
Fortunately, Barnes received offers of help from a number of community members who saw and read her story on WCPO.com. In addition, St. Vincent de Paul has made arrangements with the property management company to pay her rent through this month.
Landsman said the city and several local agencies were bracing for an influx of evictions in light of COVID-19 and people unable to work. They have been working on a plan to help people access the help they need quickly to avoid eviction. St. Vincent de Paul, the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati and the Community Action Agency-Cincinnati | Hamilton County all have funding available to help people facing eviction. But many times, people who receive an eviction notice on their door or in the mail don't know that help is available.
“Definitely new folks that we hadn’t seen before," said Mark Lawson, president and CEO of the Community Action Agency-Cincinnati | Hamilton County. "Similar thing happened with the foreclosure crisis in 2008. A lot of people who had never needed our services before all of a sudden found themselves in jeopardy.”
One idea is to have a single phone number to call if residents have received eviction notices. Landsman said they are working on that plan with the United Way.
“We get that out to landlords and tenants, that information which we’ll do in the next week or so, to ensure that people know exactly where to go and how to get the help,” said Landsman.
He said the local courts aren't currently holding eviction hearings. They won't resume until sometime in June. But evictions are still being filed.
“In the midst of this crisis, there is an urgency. We have some 5, 6, potentially 700 people facing eviction that are in the queue,” Landsman said.
He believes that while the local courts aren't holding eviction hearings, that time can be used to assist those who need it, and help them avoid having to move.
He said they want to find a way to bring "all of those folks together to work with one another on mediation of a way in which landlords can work with their tenants to say, okay, let’s work through this. Let’s avoid the eviction.”
"We expect a big flood,” said Lawson
He said his agency has been bracing for the expected increase in evictions because residents are finding themselves having to decide to pay one bill, and not another.
“People are paycheck to paycheck, you know, one illness or one lost job away from disaster,” Lawson acknowledged. “Now with so many people out of work, we think that people are using what resources they have to buy food, to keep the utilities on or do other things.”
He said the CAA can help people in need of rental assistance with up to $2,500 in either the city of Cincinnati or Hamilton County, if they meet certain income requirements.
Meanwhile, Landsman said the WCPO 9 News report about Barnes is causing the city and local agencies to speed up their plan to assist residents.
"It was one that just said, look, move faster. We have got to work harder and quicker,” Landsman said. “These aren’t just names on a spreadsheet. These are real people facing real issues.”
Moms about to have a baby shouldn't be forced to move, he added.