Banking on rent assistance for a lifeline

Lexington, Kentucky (Lex 18) – Native of Lexington, Charles Gill has been putting his heart and soul into his music, and now he pours it all into keeping himself and his family from being evicted from their apartment.

Jill and his pregnant fiancée contracted COVID-19 in December and have been in quarantine for two months, unable to work. Then his fiancée had a difficult birth that put them off work for a month and a half. He says those two setbacks caused them to pay rents by more than $2,000.

“I didn’t have a financial situation like this until COVID. I’ve always kept my ducks in a row and always kept my bills paid,” said Gill.

For now, he’s hoping and praying that he can get funding from the city’s Rent Assistance Program to pay off his rent and that his apartment complex will accept it. Therefore, his now four-month-old baby can continue to have a place to stay.

“Every time I tried to get up, we were dealing with the apartment complex not trying to work with us, knowing we had the resources,” Gill said.

Jill had difficulty navigating the application process. But he hopes his apartment will remain patient until he puts all the pieces together and receives financing.

Legal Aid of the Bluegrass says he’s not the only one at that point in the process. The organization, which helps low-income people with legal aid, has lent a helping hand to help families like Jill deal with paperwork.

“We help them upload these documents and then work with the city and community action to get these applications approved as quickly as possible,” said Brian Dufresne, head of the housing legal team.

Sometimes he says the process takes longer for some than others, but the schedule has improved dramatically from the start.

“What we have now with the rental assistance program is that it is working more efficiently than it used to be,” Dufresne said. “Requests are approved in some cases within the shortest five days.”

To date, the team has helped more than 700 people fill out applications for the housing stabilization program funded by the city and managed by the Community Action Council.

Although they helped distribute $4.1 million in aid, Dufresne says they still see the owners choosing not to participate.

“What we’re seeing is that some landlords don’t participate in the program naturally, and in other cases, it’s on a case-by-case basis depending on the tenant,” Dufresne said.

When that happens, they communicate with the landlords on behalf of the tenants, but they cannot force them to accept the program.

“There is nothing in the program that can compel landlords to accept this rental assistance money,” Dufresne said.

He says they are trying to remind the owners of the secured money. The average payout is $6000.

To date, the program has helped more than 3,510 tenants, and has processed about $110,000 per day in payments to area landlords.

Gill is not alone in this situation, says Jenny Ramsay, director and founder of the Catholic Action Center. As a longtime housing advocate in the city, she says the need for rent and housing assistance in Lexington is at a critical point.

“In 23 years, we’ve never seen the kind of situation we’re in with inflation, gas prices, and food prices with rents going up. It’s a tsunami for those living on the edge of a cliff,” Ramsey said.

She says the biggest obstacle for families now is trying to access resources that can help them.

“They can’t unravel this maze of available services,” Ramzy said.

This is why Ramsay is rebooting the sympathetic advocates of “Save Their Homes” at the Catholic Action Center. They began training volunteers who would help those in need find social service resources such as housing assistance.

“Two years ago, we had 58 volunteers who did it for six months to connect people with resources and that makes a huge difference,” Ramsay said.

Currently, they are working to grow their volunteer base and prepare to launch on July 11th.

“It’s really a matter of the community surrounding this issue and it’s a great thing,” Ramsay said.

LEX 18 has arrived at Jill Apartment Complex. A regional manager said in an email that they would gladly accept rental assistance money but did not say if they would accept his money.

Unfortunately for Jill, he just has to wait and see what happens. However, he expects sympathy and a second chance that will help him get back on his feet and get back to his music.

Arriving to catholic action center If you would like to volunteer to help.

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