An organization that provided a key service in the city’s eviction prevention assistance network says it’s no longer able to keep up with its program helping tenants with their applications for aid.
South Louisville Community Ministries, a nonprofit that provided a drop-in service for struggling tenants seeking eviction prevention funds from Metro government under an initiative called Stop My Eviction, stopped sending applications to the city on Jan. 31. Executive Director Clare Wallace said she retired her team of 25 for two reasons:
- Metro’s backlog of applications is so great that her nonprofit was only adding to the problem.
- Her team was under enormous strain and a more sustainable, robust version of an eviction prevention program is needed.
“It’s almost worse to tell somebody, ‘Yeah, you can get assistance, but it’s going to take you — you’re not going to get it until September,’” Wallace said.
Wallace says a new, more well-rounded initiative involving Metro is underway called the Housing Stability Team. She had hoped that the ending of South Louisville Community Ministries’ program could have overlapped with the beginning of the Housing Stability Team, but there have been delays. The Louisville Urban League is also involved with the Housing Stability Team, but both the League and Metro said they were not yet ready to share more details on the plan. Wallace said that it would go beyond what South Louisville Community Ministries was doing.
In the meantime, Louisville tenants are left without critical help. Another program helping renters apply for assistance through the Metro Office for Resiliency and Community Services and Neighborhood Place is all booked up and won’t start taking new applications until at least March 31.
At least one major avenue to rental assistance remains: The Metro Office of Housing and Community Development is still helping people apply who end up in eviction court.
The backlog of eviction prevention applications has been a persistent problem for Metro since before the city even received its first bout of funding from the federal government, said Caitlin Bowling, a spokesperson for the city. South Louisville Community Ministries had already started accepting applications in anticipation of the funds arriving, she said.
Currently, Metro is processing a backlog of 2,600 applications, according to Bowling — 800 of which came from South Louisville Community Ministries. It’s taking about 12 weeks for applications to be processed, down 16 weeks from a few months ago, according to Metro.
The reasons for the backlog are numerous, Bowling said. In the past, the Office of Housing has told LEO that staffing was an issue. At first, the Office was also using Excel to keep track of the applications, although that process has been improved. In an email, Bowling added that the city must also meet significant reporting requirements since the funds for the program come from the federal government.
“And while we are always looking to improve our processes, what the teams at RCS and the OHCD have accomplished is incredible,” she wrote, “and they’ve been recognized multiple times by the White House as setting the bar for other cities and municipality.”
Over almost two years, the city has disbursed $96 million total to help Louisville tenants. It has $8 million left but expects more to come in from the state and federal governments.
Wallace confirmed that Louisville has been held up as a “shining example” for the rest of the country on how to handle eviction assistance. But she also believes the current model in place is not sustainable.
“The need is not going away,” she said. “There are plenty of impossibilities right now in order to find and keep stable housing that have come from the pandemic and have been accentuated because of it.”
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