HT Local News

Schools, nonprofits offer help to Atlanta families facing eviction

By Vanessa McCray, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Atlanta nonprofits and public school officials are trying to help families threatened by eviction.

The effort is aimed at assisting parents so they can remain in their homes and avoid the disruptions students would face if forced to move and possibly switch schools.

The nonprofit Star-C created an eviction relief fund specifically for renters who have children enrolled in Atlanta Public Schools. The organization has about $136,000 that it plans to disperse to families who have faced financial troubles during the pandemic. Renters can apply for up to $3,200 in rental assistance.

“We’ve found that people have been laid off. Their businesses just closed and never reopened. We’ve found that the hours were severely cut,” said Courtney English, director of community development for Star-C. “A lot of people got sick or had loved ones that were sick.”

English, who previously served as chairman of the Atlanta school board, said the fund is intended to help families remain in their apartments and homes and to provide stability for students.

The fund is one of several resources Atlanta school officials are promoting. The district created a page on its website listing agencies that offer support to APS parents and employees.

“As you know, COVID-19 has placed a severe hardship on many of our families. Beyond the academic challenges caused by the pandemic, COVID-19 has also made it difficult for many of our families to pay their rent,” said Superintendent Lisa Herring in a recent note addressed to her APS colleagues.

The district also is referring people to Atlanta COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, administered by United Way of Greater Atlanta. The $22 million program offers help to eligible Atlanta residents who have lost income because of the pandemic.

Court closures and other measures — including a recent eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — have helped protect renters. But officials worry about the back-rent some still will owe when the many cases that landlords have brought against renters eventually proceed.

“Resources are dwindling,” said Ayanna Jones-Lightsy, co-director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation’s Safe and Stable Homes Project.

The foundation works in nine Atlanta schools to help families remain in stable housing and reduce student turnover. Jones-Lightsy worries about the families who “are so far behind that they can’t catch up.”

“If you have a family it’s even harder to find affordable housing within the city limits,” she said.