How bad has the nationwide eviction crisis impacted Harris County?

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Since January of last year, 34,900 eviction cases have been filed in Harris County, according to the January Advisors online dashboard. That's an increase from when ABC13 last reported the data on Thursday.

A recent study revealed that the eviction crisis is disproportionally impacting communities of color and women.

The findings also revealed between March and September, when an eviction moratorium was not in effect, there were 434,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 11,000 additional deaths across 27 states in the U.S.

On Wednesday night, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky sent the following statement regarding extending the eviction moratorium:

"As a protective public health measure, I will extend the current order temporarily halting residential evictions until at least March 31, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to our nation's health. It has also triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities.

Despite extensive mitigation efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread in America at a concerning pace. We must act to get cases down and keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings - like shelters - where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold."

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the Houston Housing Authority LaRence Snowden said these findings reflect what has been occurring in Houston's ongoing housing crisis.

"Minorities [and] women are usually the first that are relieved of their job duties," Snowden said. "With the pandemic, which has really caused, I mean exacerbated the problem of evictions and housing affordability. It's ramped it up more."

He anticipates that we will see the lasting impact from the pandemic in years to come. Snowden said more has to be done to help provide relief to all renters who are struggling to make ends meet.

"A heightened attention should be placed on making sure we are doing some things outside of just moratorium on evictions," Snowden said. "There really is going to be a need for some possible rental relief or rental forgiveness."

BakerRipley, a local non-profit, set up a rental assistance program last year to help thousands of renters in Houston and Harris County.

Cristina Cave, BakerRipley community relations manager, said the organization gave a total of $64.5 million through its program, but that came to a screeching halt at the end of 2020 when the funds ran out.

"At this point, tenants are welcome to still apply to apply at our website," Cave said. "But, we don't have funds at this point. This is not a program that BakerRipley has funds for on it's own. We are waiting on either the city and the county to get funds, and if they select BakerRipley for that fund, we will be able to connect tenants with those resources."

Cave said the organization is still offering utility assistance program. BakerRipley is also taking donations to continue to help those in need.

Brian Portwood is a renter who is facing eviction. He said he received help from BakerRipley last year, but has been out of a job since October and is now three months behind on rent.

"Don't give up," Portwood said. "Because there are people out there that do care."

Portwood shared his story on ABC13 on Thursday and viewers like Demese Black called to help.

"When I watched him and he was in tears, it just made me think about. 'What if it was me?' or 'That could be my father,'" Black said. "He was so sincere and the thing that stuck out to me was he said, 'All we need is a chance.' He didn't ask for anything. I felt that I really needed to reach out to help him."

To donate, visit GoFundMe.com.

Also, visit this list of organizations that can help renters with financial assistance from the Houston Apartment Association.

"If people would just give from their heart," Black said. "There's good people out there that are willing to help you, no matter what color you are. No matter what situation you're in, that would be my message to other people."

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