ST. LOUIS – A new crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic may be looming for St. Louis: the resumption of evictions for people struggling to keep up with rent but there is another solution where landlords get paid and residents stay home.
Court papers and debt were piling up on Thomas Webb just two months ago. Webb, 38, was certain they were going to put him on the street. About $2,000 behind in rent, he was staring homelessness in the face.
“Right in the face! I love my family. I felt like I let them down,” Webb said.
Webb and his wife have a 2-year-old son. Their apartment in a four-family building in St. Louis was the only home the toddler had ever known.
The pandemic ended Webb’s job as a computer/electronics engineer, he said. He didn’t know where to turn and didn’t know about the Conflict Resolution Center. CRC routinely checks court proceedings for cases like his. A call from CRC changed his life.
“It came out of nowhere,” he said.
“There are two sides to every story and there are two groups of people who are really being affected by this pandemic,” said Bee Woodcock, outreach and marketing manager for CRC.
Yes, two groups: tenants and landlords.
During the pandemic, more than 3,000 potential eviction cases have been put on hold in St. Louis City and County courts but tenants like Webb still have had to sweat out deadlines for the resumption of evictions. They were first set to resume in March, which courts extended to April, and just extended again – to the end of May in the City of St. Louis and the end of June in St. Louis County.
“I was racked with guilt, you know? I’m the sole bread-winner of the house,” Webb said.
“That’s what the main thing is. It’s not that people who are hurting are just looking for a free handout. They’re looking for assistance so they can continue to live their regular life, their every day, normal life,” Woodcock said.
The Conflict Resolution Center has helped more than 300 tenants and landlords in the city find a way forward through mediation, she said.
Instead of wasting time and money in the courts, landlords get paid and families like Webb’s stay in their homes.
CRC has CARES Act funding to help with past due rent and also sets up a future payment plan.
That’s all Webb needed.
“I can’t believe it. When the paperwork went through, I was still on pins and needles. All I had to do was pay my month’s rent up and everything else was gone,” he said. “We got a settlement. I’m not behind. I’m good with the landlady. Life is good right now.”
Webb has a new full-time job at a food warehouse. He keeps a file folder full of those court documents that were piling up to remind him just how sweet home really is.
CRC also provides mediation training and helps resolve neighbor disputes beyond evictions. You can call 314-255-7449 or email email@example.com for more information.