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Health, Science, Environment

Thousands In St. Louis Area Could Lose Their Homes As Federal Ban On Evictions Expires

Latisha Birthwright moved in her rental home in 2016. After losing her job because of the coronavirus pandemic, Birthwright found herself getting behind in payments and is now facing eviction.
David Kovaluk
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Latisha Birthwright, of Florissant, is among the thousands of people in the St. Louis region who could become homeless if the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not extend past Saturday its moratorium on evictions.

Thousands of people in the St. Louis region could be at risk of losing their homes once a federal ban on evictions ends on Saturday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's moratorium has kept people who have fallen behind in rent in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. When it ends, landlords will be able to start or continue eviction proceedings.

Some people have been waiting for months for housing aid from St. Louis and St. Louis County rental assistance programs, and many renters might not receive assistance in time, said Melissa Pashia, tenant advocate and housing resource specialist for the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council.

“There's a lot of delays between the agencies that are processing the rental assistance, and my fear is that people will be evicted before they receive the assistance,” Pashia said.

Housing advocates say federal officials need to extend the ban and local officials must provide protections against evictions, so people will not end up in overcrowded shelters or on the streets.

Latisha Birthwright is among those in danger of losing her home. The 39-year-old lives in a three-bedroom house in Florissant, but on Sunday, she and her two children may be displaced.

Birthwright said the uncertainty over her living circumstances is traumatic for her and her family.

“It's something that's out of my control,” she said. “I just feel numb, there's nothing that I can do, I have you know, I don't have anything to do. I've done everything that I can do.”

Birthwright lost her job as a dispatcher at a transportation company in north St. Louis County at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic because her employer lost revenue. She received about 14 months of unemployment payments and other aid, but it wasn’t enough to pay her monthly rent of $1,000 and bills.

She is now behind about 15 months in rent and has been consistently looking for rental assistance. Birthwright applied for aid through the county and organizations. But she’s still waiting for most of the aid.

Birthwright has no idea where she and her two children will live if she’s evicted. Every day she scours rental property listings on social media sites and calls landlords to find out if they have decent housing available for rent.

“It's very stressful, you call so many different people,” Birthwright said. “Now, I will say this, there are properties out there. ... Unfortunately, those places are well out of your budget.”

Birthwright said she has no backup plan if she doesn’t receive housing assistance before she is forced to move out of her home.

“I try not to even think about it because that’s something that will break me down even more,” she said.

Pashia said evictions will not only put families in the region at risk of being homeless, they will affect schools, employment, public safety and health.

“This is a very, very, very large scale,” Pashia said. “We are going to have just crisis levels of people that are without housing.”

People who need help paying their rent or mortgage can apply for assistance through St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

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