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Many In The St. Louis Region Could Lose Their Homes As Eviction Moratoriums End

"It makes me feel really alone in this world," said Christine Rudolph, a few days after being evicted from her home in Jefferson City. Missouri tenants facing eviction are unsure how to follow a stay-at-home order when they no longer have a home to go to.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
Local and federal moratoriums ended Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority to ban evictions.

St. Louis and St. Louis County judges Friday rescinded their previous decisions to ban evictions. The orders followed Thursday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a moratorium on evictions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The justices said the CDC had exceeded its authority by issuing the ban, which was set to expire on Oct. 3.

Now that the eviction bans are lifted, landlords likely will go to court to start eviction proceedings against tenants who could not pay rent because they lost income due to the pandemic, said Lee Camp, senior attorney for ArchCity Defenders.

“There may have been landlords that were waiting to see what happened with the moratorium before they even filed a lawsuit,” Camp said. “I certainly expect there to be an uptick in not only the families being displaced, but the filings of lawsuits against families that are still trying to recover from the pandemic.”

Federal and regional authorities enacted the bans to keep families in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic and give more time to local and state officials to process rental aid applications.

Housing advocates say the money that is available for people in the region is not being distributed fast enough. Many people who face eviction have applied for assistance and are still waiting for officials to process their applications.

“I think we have a lot of people right now that are kind of living on a very thin prayer, waiting for rental assistance to come in and just hoping and praying that it comes to them and that their applications are processed before they're physically evicted from their homes,” Camp said.

St. Louis County officials have distributed about $7.4 million in federal rental relief. County officials received about 8,000 applications for emergency assistance and helped about 1,200 families.

As of mid-August, St. Louis officials had distributed about $2.2 million of rent relief. City officials received about 1,650 applications and assisted 670 people.

Unless rental assistance flows quickly to landlords, evictions will proceed unnecessarily, said Thomas Pearson, an attorney with Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said in a statement today that the walk-in rental aid clinics the city opened earlier this month have so far assisted nearly 200 people. She also encouraged families that face immediate eviction to take advantage of the resources available.

Pearson said there is still money available for families that are months behind in rent. He said officials must use every resource to help people who face evictions before they lose their homes.

“Such a small amount of the rental assistance available has been used and so many people are going to be evicted needlessly, and this money will go to waste,” Pearson said. “So you have a huge inefficiency there and people will be evicted, and they just don't need to be. It's senseless.”

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.