When Michigan families face housing hardship, it affects more than just them. Here’s how.

MICHIGAN— “It’s not just the eviction, it’s not just that you can’t pay the rent or whatever, it’s deeper than that,” Major Randy Hellstrom of the Salvation Army of Genesee and Shiawassee counties told The ‘Gander recently while discussing the end of an eviction ban put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It affects people in their soul, in their own confidence, in their own ability,” he said. 

More than hundreds of thousands of Michiganders face the potential for eviction in the next two months, according to US Census data. Over the course of the pandemic, many of those people were given protections because of the uncertainty COVID-19 presented. 

But with the eviction ban now lifted, many families are returning to a state of uneasiness. The concern housing hardships create in families gets passed down from parents to their children, Hellstrom believes. Children see the concern of missed rent payments in their parents. They carry that with them, too. 

“The kids pick up on that and we’re going to see the effects of this for a generation,” he said. “I believe it. It’s not something that’s just that can simply be fixed because, ‘Okay now we figured out a way to pay their rent.’ It’s deeper than that. Families have been shaken to the core.”

An End to the National Eviction Ban

In August, the Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the administration of President Joe Biden to extend a national eviction moratorium, meaning landlords could begin evicting people from rental homes and apartments if they were behind on their rent. 

The eviction ban had initially been issued during the COVID-19 pandemic because it created financial hardship for many families who then were unable to pay their rent. The Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention ruled in one announcement that people unable to pay rent should not be forced to stay in shelters during the pandemic because it would lead to the additional spread of COVID-19. 

The end of the ban likely puts millions of people in the US at risk of losing their homes. In mid-Michigan, Hellstrom said the Salvation Army expects to see an uptick in people seeking assistance, but said in many cases his organization will need to refer them to other groups. 

“I mean we’re going to help as much as we can, but that’s where we have to start,” Hellstrom said.

‘You Can Only Do What You Can Do’

Organizations such as The Salvation Army work to do their part in helping families facing hardship, but they can only do so much, Hellstrom said. Some groups have been allotted federal dollars to help families, but they are limited. Other groups didn’t receive any federal assistance at all. 

While The Salvation Army is one that did not get any additional funding from Washington, Hellstrom said they continue to do what they can. 

“Well, it’s gonna put tremendous strain on us and every agency in every community,” he said. “There’s only so much money to go around, for one, but it’s also a very stressful process. 

“Your staff is able to deal with a certain number of people. But if those numbers increase your staff gets stretched. You can only do what you can do.”

It may still take a while for many eviction cases—which are backlogged in many states, according to The New York Times—to make their way through the court process, giving Michigan renters a little more time before they are physically displaced. 

Hellstrom said he sees both sides of the coin, noting that landlords were put in a tough position during the moratorium. 

“If you’re a person, and you own three properties and you rent them out and that’s your income, now you are being strapped, and now you’re in desperate need because you don’t have any income,” Hellstrom said. “There are people who are landlords who are in the same situation as their own ventures are in because they don’t have any money either. They may lose their property because they have to pay a mortgage payment on those properties or whatever else.” 

Another victim of families potentially be ousted from their own homes? Their entire community, Hellstrom believes. 

“What do you do with a family that’s now evicted? You have to put them in hotels, perhaps, or maybe some other shelters,” Hellstrom said. “But shelters get full. Hotels get full. Hotels get more expensive. Hotels start saying, ‘No, we can’t have those people come into our place.’ There’s lots of things that can happen, but it affects more than just us, it affects the whole community.”

Are you or someone you know facing housing hardship? Here are some programs in place to help tenants and families either retain their homes or to help put food on the table:

  • CERA Rental AssistanceCan help Michiganders with up to 12 months of rent back pay and three months of future rent. Can also assist with utility payments. Call (313) 456-3540.
  • MI Bridges—Can provide Michiganders with food and financial assistance. 
  • United Way of Southeastern Michigan—Can help Michiganders connect with available resources by calling 2-1-1.