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The photo shows four floors of windows in an apartment complex, some of them dark, others brightly lit or colored in shades of blue, brown, and green.
The photo shows four floors of windows in an apartment complex, some of them dark, others brightly lit or colored in shades of blue, brown, and green.
Financial Health
February 18, 2021

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

On a desk, there is a copy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s legal declaration to help renters temporarily avoid being evicted. On the right, there is a pen, pencil, notebook, eyeglasses, and a coffee cup.
A man sits at a desk reading what appears to be a legal document.
A woman rests on a couch as she talks on her cell phone.
The photo shows a web page for legalfaq.org. Up top, the heading says, “Legal Help FAQs on Eviction and Landlord-Tenant Problems” followed by this text: “Find your local legal rules and groups who can help you. Also find what emergency protections renters have during the COVIID-19 pandemic. This site is a non-profit effort led by a team at Stanford Legal Design Lab and supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. This site provides legal information, but does not provide legal advice. Please check with your local court and legal aid groupos for up-to-date, authoritative information. Please review this site’s Terms of Use carefully before using the LEGAL Help FAQs platform.” Next, there is a search engine for people to use to find laws and rules for specific states and localities. At the bottom, there are three buttons to click for more information: In red, “Find Local Legal Help”; in green, “Find Financial Assistance for Housing Costs”; in blue, “Find Other Services to Help You.”
The photo shows the COVID-19 web page of 211.org. At top, the text says “211 – Get connected. Get help.” To the right of that are drop down menus entitled “How We Help” and “About.” Next is a button that says “Donate.” Below that is a photo of a coffee cup and a box of tissues. At the top of the image, the text says “Find Your Local 211.” Next, there is a search engine that allows people to input their ZIP code, city, and state.

Become familiar with the CDC’s eviction protection order, which is now extended through March 31. Download, fill out, and provide the protection form to your landlord.

Read your rental agreement closely to know your rights and the landlord’s responsibilities. Document all notices and actions; prepare proof of income, job loss, and other evidence of financial hardship.

Consider talking with your landlord about rent payment deferrals or other possible payment options until you return to work.

Visit legalfaq.org for information on legal help and community-based groups that provide food, health care, and other services.

Identify other resources to help with the rent. Call 211 or visit 211.org  for pandemic assistance.

Source: National Housing Law Project and Wells Fargo

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