Jeremy Rooks works the evening shift at a Georgia fast-food restaurant in order to avoid being on the street past dusk. He needs somewhere to go at night: He and his wife are homeless after the extended-stay motel where they had lived since Thanksgiving evicted them in April when they couldn’t pay their rent.
They should have been protected because Georgia’s Supreme Court has effectively halted evictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Rooks said the owner still sent a man posing as a sheriff’s deputy, armed with a gun, to throw the couple out a few days after rent was due.The pandemic has shut housing courts and prompted most states and federal authorities to initiate policies protecting renters from eviction. But not everyone is covered and a number of landlords — some desperate to pay their mortgages themselves — are turning to threats and harassment to force tenants out.”Every day, they tried to basically get us out of there. It was basically like a game to them,” said Rooks, who wasn’t able to make his rent at the Marietta, Georgia, motel after his employer paid him late and his wife was laid off in the pandemic. “One of us had to stay in a room at all times because they wouldn’t redo the keys for us.”The evictions threaten to exacerbate a problem that has plagued people of color like Rooks long before the pandemic, when landlords across the U.S. were filing about 300,000 eviction requests every month.1 in 5 households at riskThe data and analytics real estate firm Amherst projects that 28 million renters, or about 22.5% of all households, are at risk of eviction. Tenant advocates expect that number to increase significantly unless protections are put in place, and project that many of those affected will be African Americans and households led by women, both of which historically are more likely to be evicted.
Americans struggle with rent as financial fallout deepens