Homeless advocates worried about the high number of evictions as moratorium lifted

(Brian Tabick/KCRG)
(Brian Tabick/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: May. 26, 2020 at 9:45 PM CDT
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Gov. Kim Reynolds plans to lift a moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, and other debt collection activities on Thursday, leaving homeless advocate groups worried.

“The scariest piece for us is not having any idea what the numbers are going to be, how many households are going to be looking at facing eviction,” Emily Zimmon, support services director for Willis Dady Homeless Services, said. “How many people are still unemployed, at this moment in time, due to COVID, and just trying to provide support to as many as we possibly can.”

Zimmon said she thinks it is too early to lift the moratorium and that doing so could compound other problems.

"Such a high unemployment rate and this eviction moratorium being lifted prior to people being able to return to work," Zimmon said. "It's just going to be a large number of people that are going to face an eviction, and then might not be able to return to work due to their housing situation."

Other agencies that work with homeless people in Iowa are already seeing an increase in workload.

"Right now, Iowa Legal Aid is seeing a higher than normal number of housing intakes," Alex Kornya, the litigation director for Iowa Legal Aid, said.

Kornya said more than 25% of all of the cases his office works on deal with housing. He said the courts wouldn't be hearing eviction cases until the middle of June but people need to be ready.

Some local officials are using past experiences in times where housing was an issue to inform what to do going forward.

"What we learned in flood recovery is that there's never just one program that meets all of the needs,” Jennifer Pratt, the community development director for the city of Cedar Rapids, said. “And that we have to be able to understand what the overall need is and find creative ways to meet the need."

Pratt said the city will be setting up an application program to help the people most in need: tenants who have already had evictions filed against them.

"Security in having someplace to be is very important, especially in this environment,” Pratt said. "Long term, this is something, an eviction, that follows them and makes it more difficult to get housing in the future."

Pratt said the money will go to cover up to three months of assistance and no more than $2,000 per household. Making sure people can continue to live with a roof over their heads is going to be a team effort.

"We’re ready for a very large number of households who are continuing to be out of work due to COVID,” said Zimmon.