SC homeless shelter seeing ‘tsunami’ of people in need after eviction moratorium ends

SC homeless shelter seeing ‘tsunami’ of people in need after eviction moratorium ends
SC homeless shelter seeing ‘tsunami’ of people in need after eviction moratorium ends(Adam Mintzer)
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 7:39 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Housing advocates in South Carolina are seeing a spike in need, unlike anything they’ve seen this year.

Since the eviction moratorium ended at the end of August, families across the Palmetto State have been leaving the place they called home with mountains of debt.

Organizations like Homeless No More are trying to help these at-risk families but are at capacity because of the demand.

“Normally we will see 10 phone calls a day from families who are at risk of homelessness. In the past 10 days, we are now at 20 to 30 phone calls each day from families who have received notice of evictions and will be homeless in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Homeless No More CEO Lila Anna Sauls said.

Sauls explained that her organization’s family shelter, transitional housing, and affordable housing are all at capacity and they are needing to turn people away.

“We were bracing for this wave of the eviction crisis, and it never came. And, two weeks ago we looked and said it’s a tsunami,” Sauls said.

The people coming to Homeless No More are also in different situations like those the non-profit traditionally work to assist.

Sauls said they are seeing more mothers and fathers with two to four children and families where one parent is still working, as opposed to single parents with children.

“We are seeing the working poor,” she said.

She says members of her organization have been worried for the past year that the longer the moratorium was kept in place, the more debt families would accumulate.

“We are dealing with families who are...the hole is too deep to get out of,” Saul said. “Our job is to stabilize them enough so they can get this fresh start.”

The Princeton University Evictions Lab tracks eviction cases in the cities of Charleston and Greenville and found that new filings went from 98 in the first week of September to 225 the next week. The researchers found a similar trend in Greenville where there were 403 new cases in the second week of September.

South Carolina legal services also saw a spike in cases. The group that assists low-income South Carolinians said they’ve seen a 60 percent increase in private eviction cases from the middle of September to the middle of October.

Sauls hopes she can help reach this demand by building a motel program that allows families experiencing homelessness to have a place to stay for a couple of weeks until they can get into one of the group’s programs. She also wants to put into motion longer-lasting systematic changes. However, for both instances, she is looking for someone to help her organization that works to help so many others.

Saul is hoping lawmakers will allocate a portion of the funds coming to South Carolina through the American Rescue Plan to help create more affordable housing in the state.

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