Filling the Need
The COVID-19 moratorium on evictions of renters is phasing out. As a result, we are likely to see a big increase in homelessness here in Richmond which has a large vulnerable population.
There is, however, an important program where the State of California is distributing $2.6 billion in renter and utility relief to those renters hit hardest by the pandemic. Applying for the program also provides some protection.
While the program includes undocumented, part-time workers, unemployed, and caregivers the filing process can be daunting for those who are not computer savvy, don’t read English, or don’t have ready access to documents like pay-stubs, tax returns, etc.
A number of nonprofits have set up webinars or virtual help over phones or zooms.
But there are few places where people can get in-person assistance.
The RPA Steering Committee believes we should help fill this gap. We are organizing volunteers to staff a center where people who are having difficulty with the application procedure can come in for help. We will help fill out computer forms, provide checklists for documents, proper notification papers, and references for legal advice to those already facing problems. We are partnering with other organizations as broadly as possible. We are working with the RYSE Center, and we are working very closely with the Northern California Land Trust which has developed expertise and leadership in this area. We are also referring virtual help needs to our usual non-profit partners.
The current plan is to provide this service from the RYSE Center afternoons and early evenings initially a few days a week at times we can staff it with volunteers. We will adjust the times as we see how the assistance is used.
Our first step will be to organize text banking to reach people and let them know about the program. To reach everyone, we need many volunteers to help with text banking. We will provide the info and encourage residents to try to do the process themselves. (Go to Housing is Key and/or phone 833-430-2122). If they need additional assistance then we will let them know of availability of help including the in-person assistance that we offer.
We also need volunteers for the in-person assistance, particularly those who speak languages other than English. If you can volunteer contact Mike Parker at [email protected] who will arrange training and scheduling.
Spread the word.