The Oklahoman

Agencies can advise, help those who need eviction, utilities aid

- JaNae Williams

Oklahomans facing eviction in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal eviction moratorium on Aug. 26 have several local agencies they can turn to for assistance.

The moratorium was thrown out after offering months of protection, opening the door for a wave of evictions that could result in a rise in homelessne­ss. Local agencies have help available at every phase of the process with options for rental and utility assistance, shelter and rehousing assistance.

“We have definitely seen an increase in calls lately,” said Kinsey Crocker, director of communicat­ions for the

Homeless Alliance.

Crocker said the calls are likely due to both evictions and an increased awareness of the services offered. The rise has not only led to an increase in full time staff to handle intake, but those people are working overtime to keep up.

However, even with a number of agencies poised to help those in need, low inventory in the real estate market continues to complicate the problem.

Faced with potential eviction

Those who are behind on rent or utilities but have not yet been evicted or are headed to eviction court can still file for assistance. Millions in federal funds have been set aside to assist with back rent and utilities for Oklahomans.

Community Care Partners is responsibl­e for disbursing those funds throughout the state and has an online applicatio­n process for assistance. However, the applicatio­n will be down for about six weeks until Oct. 15 to allow the organizati­on to process a backlog of applicatio­ns, according to an email from Shannon Carr, director of communicat­ions for Community Cares Partners.

Carr said Community Care Partners has distribute­d more than $50 million in rent and utility assistance.

“On the flip side, there are over 13,000 submitted applicatio­ns in the pipeline waiting to be completely processed and paid,” Carr said. “It takes about eight weeks to qualify tenants, execute the Emergency Rental Assistance Agreement (ERAA), and get an applicatio­n sent for payment.”

Several other organizati­ons can help those in Oklahoma City while the applicatio­n for Community Care Partners is down, including Upward Transition­s, Catholic Charities, Neighborho­od Services Organizati­on, The Salvation Army and the Homeless Alliance.

“We do rental assistance,” Crocker said of the Homeless Alliance and the others. “CCP by far had the most capacity, so this will really impact the amount of referrals we will all be getting.”

If you need immediate shelter

When eviction already has occurred, there are number of resources available to provide for immediate shelter needs.

Individual­s and families can find a temporary place to stay with The Salvation Army, City Rescue Mission or the City Care Night Shelter. Men can stay at Grace Rescue Mission. Sisu Youth offers housing for those ages 15 to 22 in need of assistance and the Point at Pivot welcomes ages 15 to 24.

Many offer shelter only for the night, requiring you to leave each day and return. Check with providers to know the guidelines and restrictio­ns in advance.

Need help finding a new home

When there is a need to re-establish a home, the Homeless Alliance, Positive Tomorrows and Neighborho­od Services Organizati­on all have staff to aid those who have experience­d an eviction.

While all three serve families, the Homeless Alliance and Neighborho­od Services Organizati­on also help individual­s in need. Case workers can assist with searching for a home, obtaining and completing paperwork and more.

The affordable housing shortage

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Oklahoma lacks 71,172 affordable rental homes for extremely low income renters. Additional­ly, 85% of extremely low income and 71% of very low income renters are considered cost burdened, meaning they spend at least 30% of their monthly income on housing and utilities. This means a person working full-time making minimum wage in Oklahoma City would need to find rent lower than $387.

While affordable housing has been a discussion for years, particular­ly in the Oklahoma City metro area, the inventory has not increased at the level necessary for the need.

MAPS 4 included $50 million for affordable housing when it was approved in 2019. The Homeless Alliance expects that money to provide about 1,000 new units, leaving a large gap.

“I can stand on the street corner all day and say ‘You need to build more housing,’” said Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance in a June interview. “It’s not until the chambers (of commerce) and the real estate developers and municipal government and all those groups come together and say ‘yes we, as a community, need to build more truly affordable housing,’ that it will actually get done.”

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