COVID-19 Response Fund Grantee Stories: Connecticut Fair Housing Center
The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc across our community, but in some respects, the worst may be yet to come. Pamela Heller of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center says the most significant impacts of the public health and economic crisis on our state’s housing sector will occur after the courts reopen.
“When landlords can start evicting again, when banks start foreclosing again, we foresee an increase in homelessness, in housing insecurity, in court cases,” says Heller. “I think it will be worse than 2008. At this point it’s not, because the courts are closed. It’s like a dam, where the water is building up, and once this is over it’s all going to crash.”
Connecticut Fair Housing Center works to ensure that Connecticut residents have equal access to housing opportunities in the state, free from discrimination. In mid-March, the number of calls to their office increased three-fold, along with a spike in website traffic from people seeking assistance during the COVID-19 crisis. These inquiries include concerns about rent or eviction, ability to re-certify income after a job loss, increases in domestic violence and other issues.
A $35,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s COVID-19 Response Fund will support Connecticut Fair Housing Center as they respond to this increased demand and continue to provide advocacy to tenants and housing providers. They are also using the funds to expand into new areas of work, including offering advice on eviction and tenants’ rights, as well as ensuring that medically-vulnerable people have access to safe and secure housing.
As far as life after COVID-19, Heller adds, “What I’d love to see come out of this, ideally, is that lower wage workers and people who are living on the edge of poverty have better support in times of crisis.”
“There has to be a way to help folks who can’t pay their mortgage or rent. Otherwise, if everyone who has lost income is evicted or foreclosed on, I can’t overstate the effect of that on both the court system and the economy.”