You get home from work and are greeted with a padlock on your door. You panic. Where is your daughter who stays home alone after school? Where will you sleep tonight? What about your clothes, furniture and possessions which you will lose unless you can hire a moving truck and rent a storage unit within the next 5-7 days? You wish you had never trusted your ex-husband to pay the rent as promised.
This personal story of a Crisis Assistance Ministry board member mirrors that of nearly 30,000 households in Mecklenburg County annually. Lives upended by eviction notices in the midst of trying to keep it all together after a financial crisis. The downward spiral of homelessness begins.
“Eviction is both a cause and condition of poverty,” said Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted. His research revealed that Charlotte’s eviction rate is almost twice similar cities such as Raleigh, Atlanta and Nashville. As a matter of fact, we are the 21st highest in evictions out of 100 US cities.
Families lose possessions, owe court fees, incur apartment application fees, need security, utility and rent deposits and more. And missed work during this trauma just compounds the financial crisis. The initial trigger might be unpaid time off with a sick child, a cancer diagnosis, a robbery or a market rate adjustment notice that the rent is going up $200. Whatever the cause, the eviction cycle is traumatic, expensive and unrelenting for families who become “hidden homeless” and just need a safe place to sleep.
According to the recent three-part series on Charlotte Mecklenburg evictions authored by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and initiated by the Housing Advisory Board, Mecklenburg County has roughly one eviction for every 37 people, and that rate more than doubles in some neighborhoods in north, east and west Charlotte.
The momentum created by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force report is inspiring. The city manager’s proposed $50 million Housing Trust Fund and other initiatives to fill our affordable housing gap prove our community is serious. Let’s add one more bold commitment. Let’s fight for our city to be in last place. Let’s aim to be 100 out of 100 — in evictions.