DES MOINES, Iowa — The pandemic has put many Iowans face to face with eviction. But a new partnership has saved hundreds of people facing homelessness in Polk County.
“We are concerned about people moving into homelessness. Particularly with the effects of COVID-19 on our economy,” said Angie Arthur, the executive director of the Polk County Continuum of Care.
Polk County began hearing eviction cases on July 13, but a partnership between Iowa Legal Aid, Polk County Housing Trust Fund, the Polk County Continuum of Care and Polk County has provided $800,000 from the CARES Act to fight evictions. “Because it is funding for people affected by COVID-19, we could go back to April to be able to support individuals, but it varies. For some folks it might be one month and for some it might be multiple months.” Arthur said.
On days when the Polk County Justice Center is hearing eviction cases, Iowa Legal Aid arrives early and greets those who may be expecting the worst outcome. “If funding is the issue due to COVID-19, then we can meet with them and support them and see if we can reach resolution with them and their landlords,” said Arthur.
Since Sept. 1 when the Polk County Board of Supervisors approved the use of funds, the program has helped 150 households that contained 270 individuals. In total, 144 of those individuals were children, and there’s plenty more work to be done.
Arthur says that so far just $263,000 of the allotted $800,000 has been spent. Arthur said, “Part of our mission as an organization is that everyone in Polk County has a safe place to call home. This is a way we can help partner and support to do that.”
While the unique partnership has proven successful, there is one issue that has been difficult to overcome. It is hard to fight for someone at the Justice Center if they don’t show up. Arthur said, “Definitely encourage people to show up that are in the eviction process because there are some resources in this program which aren’t typically available.”
In uncertain times, having a place to call home should not be out of your control. “You are in a pandemic and we don’t want you out in the streets and we want them to be safe at their home,” said Arthur.
The funds will be available until they run out. If you need immediate assistance with an eviction, call 211. You can also reach help at HOME Inc: 515-243-1277