KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Protesters temporarily shut down eviction hearings Thursday at the Jackson County Courthouse.
A federal moratorium on evictions during the COVID crisis was recently lifted. Jackson County lifted its own moratorium at the end of a May. Now, a reported 50,000 Kansas Citians are at risk of eviction.
With rent due Saturday, protesters want that moratorium extended.
But the KC Regional Housing Alliance said that would only prolong the inevitable. Instead, they’re encouraging them to seek help from resources.
Sarah Harkleroad, a single mother of five, said she’s never been unemployed or had serious trouble paying her bills.
“COVID-19 hit, and the return phone call still hasn’t come,” she said. “It’s looking really bleak. More people in the office have even been laid off.”
As her unemployment ran out, she couldn’t pay her July rent or utilities in full.
“It’s super stressful. You can’t sleep as it is, then you get behind and then you are like, ‘How did this even happen?’ because I’ve always worked.”
Community Linc, the metro’s largest homeless assessment hub, has been getting a lot of calls of late from people like Harkleroad.
“Sadly, it’s people who don’t even know how to navigate services, so to speak. They’ve never called agencies. They don’t know what to do,” said Teresa McClain, fund development director for Community Linc.
While calls for help are up 300% during the pandemic, donations are way down.
“We have businesses that usually support us, calling us with their homeless employees trying to help them,” she said.
Community Linc was able to help that mom with July and August’s payments, hoping she can find employment before her money and possibly the organization’s funding run out.
But both said the job market is bleak. They understand why people protested outside the courthouse Thursday.
“They are desperate. What other options do they have?” McClain said.
But the courts said those who disrupted eviction hearings infringed upon the rights of tenants, represented by attorneys trying to help them stay in their apartments.
Stacey Johnson Cosby, KC Regional Housing Alliance president, said in a statement the eviction moratorium damages tenants in the long term.
They will be required to move when the moratorium is lifted, in the dead of winter if the six-month extension is granted. They will have a judgement entered against them for thousands of dollars they will not be able to pay.