Evictions: I'm scared it's going to get much worse.
The Mid-Willamette Valley has been a growing hotspot of homelessness and housing instability even before the COVID-19 pandemic. For a number of years, a drive downtown showed clear evidence that our community does not have an adequate system of supports for our homeless neighbors. The visual heartbreak is backed up by the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) that Congress receives from HUD. It shows that Oregon leads the nation in terms of unsheltered families.
I’m scared it’s going to get much worse.
Response to the COVID-19 health crisis has caused formerly stable jobs to wither or disappear completely. Families that were once marginally unstable can no longer pay the rent, and families that have a roof over their heads are one small financial incident away from losing their home. We now face a looming eviction crisis unlike anything we have ever seen before. I’m worried that more children are going to sleep outside this winter.
I don’t say the following lightly: our decisions in the upcoming months will impact a generation.
An executive order from early April has prevented landlords from evicting tenants in Oregon until after September 30th. Earlier this week, Governor Brown, the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human services extended the moratorium until December 31st. Without a significant financial investment, the new year may bring a wave of evictions unlike anything we have seen before. Our economically vulnerable neighbors and their children must be defended from a fiscal fallout that is not their fault and not of their making.
Avoiding eviction and keeping families housed makes good financial sense. Our model at Family Promise of the Mid-Willamette Valley has good data that shows actual costs for prevention, shelter, and long-term support. Over the past four years, we have found that it costs about $153 per year to keep a child housed. Compare that to an average of $4,500 we must spend every time we rehouse a homeless family. If that same family becomes chronically homeless, stabilizing that household costs close to $15,000 per year. That figure is just a fraction of the long-term costs of homelessness to the public. In addition, industry data shows that there is no discernible difference in rent collection rates in states with eviction moratoriums still in place and those whose moratoriums have expired.
To meet this impending crisis, we need compassion and caring for every member of our community. I ask you to support shelters and service providers like Family Promise so we can amplify our work. Talk to law makers and urge them to continue the moratorium on evictions, to continue rental assistance that keeps families housed, and to enact legislation that protects renters.
If you want to help, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please reach out to email@example.com.
COVID-19 has altered our way of life; don’t let it negatively impact the lives of vulnerable Oregon families forever.