HOUSTON - A local group says Houston residents have been slow to take advantage of free rent payments to avoid eviction.
In response, the Gulf Coast Community Services Association offered hands-on help Saturday morning during a drive-through event meant to help clear up confusion and increase participation.
About 90 cars trickled into the parking lot at 9320 Kirby Drive. The grantee is offering up to six months of rent payments through the Texas Eviction Diversion Pilot Program.
“The idea is to try and provide some stability,” explains CEO Jonita Reynolds, giving an example of how the program works. “If a tenant only has two months in arrears, then those four months can be paid forward.”
It's also one security guard's first day on the job after an incredibly tough season.
“I have no family here. I just lost my dad to Covid two months ago, and I was also infected with Covid,” says Nikia Crawford.
She says her eviction notice came Thursday; being assigned to work the eviction assistance event was the first stroke of luck she's had awhile.
“I was ready to pack and leave,” says Crawford. “Then when I got the first day of my job, and I got the same location that was helping, I just knew it was a blessing.”
After three weeks of low online participation, GCCSA is using the event to draw in tenants without internet access and questions about free assistance.
“We’re also finding out those who had submitted information- it has been incomplete,” adds Reynolds.
At the event, assistants were able to double-check forms and call landlords on the spot, and if they weren’t able to reach a landlord right away, they say they'll keep trying.
However, property owners will have to sign paperwork to move the process forward, but not all of them are willing to cooperate.
“Some have commented that it is a little too late, that the arrearage has accumulated and the best thing that they can do, according to them, is just to cut their losses,” says Reynolds.
But if the landlords are willing to waive late fees, courts can stop evictions and wipe them from tenants’ records.
“You have to give people a chance, and right now with this going on, you never know what people are going through,” says Tia Harris who is hoping to keep her and her three daughters in their home.
To receive assistance, an eviction has to have been filed in court with a case number, then payments may take a few weeks to get approved.
Joanna Glinski fell behind on rent payments when she was furloughed as a restaurant manager but says she can get right back on track with the eviction diversion help.
“I’m a little bit more relieved. I’m also working full-time again- just trying to keep my head above water right now,” she says.
She’s hoping to be one of the Harris County residents who get their share of hundreds of thousands of dollars waiting to give tenants a fresh start.
To apply for assistance, click here.