Housing nonprofits mobilize to help renters in crisis
During the pandemic, many renters in a financial crunch have received help from housing nonprofits supported by the Wells Fargo Foundation and other philanthropic groups.
For millions of people across the U.S., the rent is long overdue. Many worry they could lose the roof over their head, despite the recent extension of a federal ban on evictions amid the ongoing pandemic.
The plight of renters during COVID-19 has energized a response from housing nonprofits nationwide to help as many as possible — with support from charitable organizations and corporate philanthropy groups.
“We believe working with local organizations like Foundation Communities still makes an enormous difference in the lives of people who are facing serious housing insecurity issues. We’re committed to this path, and we’re in it for the long term.” — Kim Smith-Moore, community outreach manager for the Wells Fargo Foundation
“We have seen many in desperate need during this crisis, and we’re committed to stepping up to meet that need,” said Donna Williams, head of individual giving and engagement at Foundation Communities, a housing nonprofit in Austin, Texas, that serves 7,000 residents in 25 affordable housing communities.
Since the pandemic began, the nonprofit has covered the rent of more than 700 residents, funded in part by $171,000 in emergency rental assistance from the Wells Fargo Foundation and its partner NeighborWorks® America. The funding was part of $225 million in COVID-19 relief Wells Fargo has donated to 1,600 nonprofits to help 200,000 people affected by the pandemic remain in their homes. It also included $5.4 million to legal assistance organizations that help people facing eviction.
In Austin, those helped during the pandemic have run the gamut, from retail sales and day care workers to airport service providers, as many have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, according to Williams.
‘A series of blessings’
Elle Brown of Austin said the nonprofit has been nothing short of a godsend. Two years ago, Brown, a cosmetics artist, took her eight-year-old son Elijah and fled an abusive relationship. They were living in a women’s shelter when she met a Foundation Communities worker who helped her qualify for an apartment in one of its communities.
When the pandemic hit, however, Brown’s hours and income took a hit as well. Last spring, she had to tell the management she couldn’t make the next rent payment. That’s when she found out she would be eligible for emergency rental assistance.
She said that was the latest in a series of blessings from the nonprofit for her and her son, including child care support, after-school activities, and summer learning programs.
“I just consider myself to be so fortunate,” said Brown, who also operates a makeup consulting business and teaches makeup classes online. “Foundation Communities does such great work, especially supporting women, allowing them to do what they love and become successful, no matter the obstacles. The organization is true to their vision, and I am very, very grateful.”
Commitment to get results
Such outcomes are gratifying for Wells Fargo, which has been a top-tier sponsor of Foundation Communities for more than a decade, said Kim Smith-Moore, community outreach manager for the Wells Fargo Foundation. In 2019, the company made a $1 billion commitment to housing affordability work, including affordable communities, transitional housing, and homeownership.
“COVID-19 has intensified the need for housing affordability, which was already at a crisis level before the pandemic,” she said. “But we believe working with local organizations like Foundation Communities still makes an enormous difference in the lives of people who are facing serious housing insecurity issues. We’re committed to this path, and we’re in it for the long term.”
Five tips for finding rent help
Source: National Housing Law Project and Wells Fargo