COVID 19 has brought unprecedented hardship and uncertainty to Oregonians of all walks of life and significantly impacted renters and housing providers throughout the state. For many low-income seniors served by Northwest Pilot Project, the risk of homelessness is imminent unless the current eviction moratorium is extended and robust rent assistance is provided.
The existing statewide eviction moratorium has successfully prevented homelessness as well as potential COVID-19 infection for countless households across the state, including vulnerable seniors who are at high risk of hospitalization and fatal complications from the virus.
Once evicted, people are at higher risk of catching and spreading COVID-19, according to new research published by the Journal of Urban Health. When people lose their homes, they move to crowded shelters or double up with friends or family where following COVID safety protocols is challenging.
We urge Gov. Kate Brown to call a special session and call on the Legislature to extend the moratorium beyond Dec. 31. The comprehensive six-month extension to the moratorium being proposed, with the creation of a Landlord Compensation Fund, would address the needs of both vulnerable low-income tenants and small-scale landlords in need of financial relief.
Today, more older adults are living on the edge than we would have imagined one year ago: 1 out of 4 senior couple households and half of elders living alone do not have enough income to cover basic living expenses. Because of systemic racism, the challenge is even greater for seniors of color: 2 out of 3 Black retirees, and 3 out of 4 Latinx retirees cannot cover basic expenses.
While the pandemic has made it worse, even before COVID-19 Multnomah County's Point In Time count of homelessness reported 23% of unsheltered residents were age 55 and older, up from 19.6% in 2017.
For many of the seniors we serve, working through their so-called golden years was the solution to inadequate Social Security checks. Part-time work paid some of the rent and utility bills. But COVID-19 wreaked havoc on their health and well-being, increased social isolation and left many without work.
For low-income seniors, staying safe and housed in the pandemic means extra time, cost and effort getting a food box or medication refill. It means counting every penny to keep the phone and electricity on. It means waiting in long lines and calling repeatedly for COVID financial assistance, often to find there is none left.
This despite 53% of Oregon renters reporting they have cut back on food or medicine to make their rent payments, according to Portland State University's September Housing Insecurity Survey.
And for too many, it means contemplating what will happen when Jan. 1 rolls around and unpaid rent is due and despite their best efforts to survive an unparalleled economic and social crisis, eviction is imminent.
It doesn't have to be this way. We have the ability to protect vulnerable older Oregonian renters from eviction, subsequent homelessness, and the catastrophic effects of heightened exposure to the virus and provide financial support to housing providers.
It is incumbent on our legislators to do what is necessary to avoid an unnecessary and dangerous wave of COVID-19 evictions by extending the eviction moratorium and providing robust rental assistance.
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