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Ninth District Opportunity receiving funding to help prevent evictions, help homeless
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Three men stand outside The Way Thursday, April 2, 2020, in Gainesville prior to lunch service at the homeless ministry. - photo by Scott Rogers

Ninth District Opportunity in Gainesville recently signed its first round of contracts through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which will provide federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for eviction prevention and street outreach to the homeless population.

The nonprofit “community action agency” previously told The Times it expected “an overflow” of potential eviction proceedings related to the COVID-19 outbreak and economic hardships experienced by tenants and landlords. 

“It’s a significant amount of money. It’s enough that we’re going to be able to make a big difference to a lot of people that are struggling right now, individuals and families,” said Ninth District Opportunity housing/program manager Michael Fisher.

Fisher did not disclose the exact amount of money.

Fisher said the money the agency has received so far is for eviction prevention, which will “make landlords whole, get clients stabilized and kind of back off the pressure on some of these courtrooms right now and give people a chance for a second opportunity to live their lives without all this pressure.”

“We’re actually starting the work today. We’re starting to reach out to the Magistrate Courts, sending them information, contact information, for both the landlords and the tenants,” Fisher said.

There is also money for hotel/motel as a “staging area” before finding permanent housing for people in the area, Fisher said, as well as street outreach to the homeless communities.

“We’re really getting engaged into the homeless communities, trying to partner them with different agencies, referrals and services as we can. And hopefully some of them may be even finding a way out of the streets into maybe even a hotel and eventually into a permanent housing situation,” Fisher said.

Between March 14 and April 24, Hall County Magistrate Court received 70 eviction filings from landlords and attorneys. The Times has reached out to Magistrate Court officials for an updated number.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act protected those living in properties with federal assistance from eviction proceedings and fines/fees related to not paying rent for 120 days from March 27, which expired on July 25.

Ninth District Opportunity set up a centralized 800 number in April to handle rehousing and eviction prevention.

Fisher said calls are up 25-30% in the past two weeks before the moratorium expired.

That phone number for Ninth District Opportunity is 800-822-0179, ext. 2026.

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