Flagstaff nonprofits are gearing up for what could be a tough upcoming year for many as a moratorium on evictions comes to an end.
Since September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had a moratorium on evictions, but that is set to end on Dec. 31. For those who have been left unemployed by the pandemic, that may mean months of unpaid rent coming due all at once.
Although it is hard to tell just how many households could be at risk for eviction in Coconino County and Flagstaff, it is estimated that as many as 39% of households could be at risk statewide, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
And for the last several months, that reality has become ever clearer for those with the Front Door program.
Front Door Specialist Michelle McManimon said in recent months she has been fielding an increasing number of calls, not from those who are without homes, but from residents who fear they may be evicted.
“I'm seeing people who say, ‘I'm not homeless yet. I haven't gotten eviction notice yet. But I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm too far behind on rent,’” McManimon told the Arizona Daily Sun. “Some of them have been out of work and just trying to scrape by doing, you know, Door Dash or temp labor when they can, since March.”
Those kind of calls are fairly new for the Front Door program, said Sandi Flores, program director for Catholic Charities, one of several nonprofits involved in Front Door.
The program was created primarily to assist people who are already experiencing homelessness, streamlining the ways to find and apply for housing assistance, Flores said. After interviewing a homeless resident, Front Door could help them get the kind of assistance they need at one of the various providers in town.
But more recently, McManimon said on top of the about 20 interviews they are conducting with those already experiencing homelessness, she has also been getting about 15 calls a week from residents who are worried they could be evicted.
McManimon said the number of those calls has varied throughout the year, but increased significantly last month as the end of the CDC’s eviction moratorium drew closer.
She said they are doing their best to direct those people to the assistance they need, either directing them to Coconino County, which offers rental assistance, or to other organizations such as St. Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities, all of which can offer limited rental support.
For many of the people who call her, McManimon said this is the first time they are looking at the possibility of eviction and they may not know what resources are available to them.
“We're trying to direct people to the [agencies that] have this huge pot of money they’re using to keep people from becoming homeless,” McManimon said. “I think a lot of people are also getting discouraged, because at this point, some of them have already been to Coconino County Community Services and they are having to piece together other resources.”
Flores said the potential crisis means Front Door is bulking up and getting ready to assist residents with a different set of issues then the program is used to.
“Prior to COVID, if you weren't experiencing homelessness, we weren't really the place for you to go or call,” Flores said. “Now, because of COVID, we're looking at probably having to modify and adapt.”
Flores said since the moratorium went into effect, they have also been working to get the word out that the moratorium did not halt rent, only evictions. To that end, Flores said they have distributed education packets informing tenants of that fact.