ATLANTA — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and millions of people remain jobless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put a moratorium in place for evictions nationwide.
While that brings relief to some, others say it is just prolonging the inevitable.
Shakeema Friend had a stable job in waste management in March.
“The pandemic definitely affected me immediately,” Friend said.
By April, the Atlanta mother said she was furloughed and suddenly behind on her rent.
“She (the landlord) basically gave me two weeks, and we had to leave and figure out what we were going to do, so Airbnb and hotels became my way of life for a while,” Friend said.
It’s a familiar eviction story for thousands of people in metro Atlanta either facing it or trying to recover from one.
August saw 3,400 eviction filings across Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cobb and Clayton counties according to researchers with Metro Atlanta Housing Strategy.
It’s the most in a month since the shutdowns began in March.
Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spoke to one Fulton County woman named Wendy over the phone who said she lost her job and got evicted in March with nowhere to go.
“It was traumatic. It was embarrassing,” Wendy told Johnson. “All my things are outside on the sidewalk, and people are coming up and falling asleep in my truck, and people are coming up and looking at my stuff as if it was abandoned and it was for free. And I had to, you know, wake up and honk my horn like, ‘No! it’s not!’ It was dehumanizing.”
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The CDC issued a nationwide eviction moratorium this month as experts estimated up to 40 million Americans could be at risk of eviction.
The goal is to reduce the number of people in crowded shelters or other living conditions where the spread of COVID-19 could get worse.
Audrea Rease is the executive director of Star-C, a nonprofit that works with landlords to ensure affordable housing in metro Atlanta.
“While I’m glad to see that tenants are being considered, I really, really have a heightened concern for the landlords,” Rease said.
She worries an eviction ban could lead to another kind of housing crisis.
“If the landlord’s rent collections are unnecessarily depressed by this moratorium, then I wonder about properties being at risk of falling into foreclosure,” Rease said.
Some attorneys said this won’t stop all evictions.
Metro Atlanta Housing Strategy researchers said landlords have forced tenants out with illegal evictions without court orders more than legal ones.
Attorneys with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation said their numbers have quadrupled.
They get about 16 people a month now calling to say they’ve been illegally evicted or have been threatened with one.
“I had a young lady comes to me with our 15-year-old daughter, and she was in a rooming house. And she got evicted. Literally yesterday,” Friend said.
She told Johnson she has her job back and a new place to stay, but she still sees eviction issues up close through her new nonprofit called Miya.
The organization raises money through fundraisers for rental assistance for low-income families. Friend said a nationwide eviction ban only delays the inevitable.
“If they don’t have it, then how can they have it later?” Friend said.
There have been a lot of calls for the White House and Congress to pass up to $100 billion in rent relief. But right now, there are no immediate plans to pass something like that.
Some cities, such as Atlanta, have taken it upon themselves to set aside millions of dollars for eligible families who are behind on their rent due to the pandemic.