HOUSTON - Some low-income people living in long-term hotels say they feel like they slipped through the cracks. They often don't qualify for rental assistance and are not included in eviction moratoriums.
"This is Isabella. Say hi," Jeremy and Brittany Butters said, introducing us to their one-year-old daughter over a Zoom call.
The Butters say they've had to live with a new baby in a hotel room for a year after losing their jobs in the shutdown.
"I'm a barber and I had just gotten my license about five weeks before COVID happened, and she was pregnant with her of course, and I just got terribly sick," said Jeremy Butters.
They say they were declined when they applied for rental assistance.
"They said because we're currently staying in a hotel, that they couldn't help us," said Jeremy Butters.
"The eligibility, we meet every single one. I'm on Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, I'm unemployed. We have a daughter. The winter storm affected us, the coronavirus affected us every way possible," added Brittany Butters.
But there is help for hotel residents. I reached out to the Salvation Army on the Butters' behalf.
"We were able to get them into the system to determine eligibility, which they qualify for this program," said Kenneth Devon, Director of Navigation Services for the Salvation Army of Greater Houston.
The homelessness diversion program was launched by the Coalition for the Homeless in October 2020. It was funded with $65 million for deposits and rent for rapid rehousing, as well as counseling and case management.
"It's really to help people navigate with conflict resolution, mediation, issues with housing search, but also financial assistance is there to help them, to get that next step in place so that they can save money," explained Devon.
Devon says they follow up with recipients, too, to ensure they shift from surviving day-to-day to seeing a brighter future.
"One where there's a community around them that cares, there are programs in place to provide resources, assistance for them to where they are not forgotten," said Devon.