Rental Assistance Critical for Public Health and Safety

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By Ryan Mears and Vop Osili

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the unfortunate realities of inequity, poverty, and lack of healthcare that too many Americans face. One crisis that has been delayed but not resolved is housing instability, a problem only deepened by more than a year of widespread job loss and unanticipated medical bills. Evictions will increase the number of people experiencing homelessness and the resulting instability will impact public health and safety.

This eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be lifted on July 31, and Indianapolis faces a significant wave of evictions with families thrown into upheaval and unsafe conditions. The end of this protection will have rippling effects throughout our communities and risks driving up crime and violence.

Eviction is associated with many costly and destabilizing effects for local families and neighbors. Forced displacements ultimately worsen poverty and inequality and can lead individuals to unsafe decisions. Research shows that when individuals do not have their fundamental needs met, such as access to stable housing, they can turn to committing low-level crimes like theft, robbery, and trespassing. People who are under financial stress are more likely to focus on their immediate needs and grievances, rather than the long-term consequences of their actions.

When those immediate needs are not met for so many in our community at once, it poses a risk that we as a community should not be willing to take.

Federal appropriations have devoted funds to rental assistance to ease the cliff that too many renters now face. In Marion County, the City and City-County Council directed these funds to the IndyRent Assistance Program which offers up to three months of rental assistance for those in need. Tenants can also access the state’s rental assistance program at the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority’s Rental Assistance Portal.

Providing this assistance will not only prevent homelessness, but it will also serve as a crime prevention measure. It is essential that anyone in need of assistance be made aware of resources and provided with the opportunity to stay in their homes as we all continue to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.

Ryan Mears is the Marion County Prosecutor. Vop Osili is president of the Indianapolis City-County Council and represents Council District 11 which includes a portion of Midtown.

Renter Resources

  • Tenant Legal Assistance Project and Eviction Avoidance Project – Any Marion County tenant who believes their legal rights may have been violated or who is facing eviction can call the Tenant Information Hotline at 317-327-2228 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Tenant Advocate Project – A new partnership between the City of Indianapolis and Indiana Legal Services, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, and the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society. Advocates will consult with tenants who are facing eviction in small claims court and who come to court lacking legal representation. TAP serves as final, last-minute support for those who may not have already taken advantage of City programs.
  • Rental Assistance Program – Since its launch last year, the Rental Assistance Program has distributed more than $50 million to more than 22,000 Marion County families. Households at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income that have experienced a reduction in earned income and are at risk of housing instability are eligible to apply for rental assistance online.
  • Help For Renters. Having trouble paying rent due to the coronavirus pandemic? The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can help you learn what protections you qualify for and what other resources are available to help. @CFPB #ProtectYourHouse