Rapson: How Kresge is responding to the COVID-19 eviction crisis


COVID has left a deeply painful legacy of loss and grief – a legacy that continues to worsen with no clear end in sight. Part of that legacy is the unimaginable mental, physical and logistical hardships experienced by people who are removed – or threatened with removal – from their homes and rental accommodation. It is a crisis etched with vivid relief on the ground in the cities where we have focused our energies: Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans and Fresno.

In late August, the Supreme Court overturned the Biden administration’s moratorium on evictions. This sparked the resumption of deportation warrants – horrible legal jargon to pave the way for sending people onto the streets.

Since then, Kresge has sought to identify meaningful intervention points in the housing ecosystem. Money was not the whole problem – Congress allocated $ 46 billion to the Federal Eviction Assistance Program (ERAP) through the CARES and American Rescue Plan Acts. Michigan received $ 1.254 billion to distribute to tenants, Tennessee $ 818 million and Louisiana $ 551 million, with more than $ 43 million going directly to the city of New Orleans.

These amounts have not been sufficient to be sure, even in places that have been relatively successful in disbursing the money. But the even bigger problem has been the under-spending of these funds. In some places, dollars just don’t reach tenants – and landlords – on time (New Orleans has turned out to be a notable exception). program, leaving potential recipients oblivious or confused of complex and onerous application requirements to insufficient program administration capacity, poorly designed federal regulations and, unfortunately, incompetence, hostility or ineffectiveness at the of State.

A huge problem, as President Biden might say, and one that has mobilized social activists across the country. There has been an inspiring response across the nonprofit community – the expansion of community education and awareness, policy advocacy and organization, and legal representation. Kresge has gone to school on these efforts, and we hope that they – in combination with others yet to emerge – will provide a model for a sustainable, comprehensive and large-scale approach at the local and national levels to combat the ‘housing insecurity in a significant way.

Our program staff focused their energies around five approaches in four cities. We have provided some $ 1.25 million in grants to move them forward.

1.learn and educate our philanthropic partners

In early November, the Detroit Neighborhood Forum, a monthly gathering of philanthropic and philanthropy-adjacent partners that Kresge convenes, hosted the heads of the three major agencies seeking to keep at-risk residents in their homes: United Community Housing Coalition, Detroit Housing. Commission, and the Department of Housing and Revitalization of the City of Detroit. The forum underscored the need for every philanthropic entity in the city to understand the nature and seriousness of the challenges and to find their own ways to help.

2.work hand in hand with the town hall of DETROIT

In Detroit, Mayor Duggan launched the Detroit Eviction Assistance and Prevention Program by providing some $ 138 million (of which $ 78 million has been distributed or committed to date) to tenants for rents and services suffering public. We complement these efforts in a number of ways:

  • Provide grants to intermediary housing organizations capable of helping tenants make payments with federal money;
  • Bridging the gap between city agencies and community non-profit organizations to maximize coordination in channeling money to landlords and tenants;
  • Increase our support to beneficiaries of community development organizations to engage community health workers in connecting tenants with counseling and other support services.
3.use our social investment tools to help bridge the gap with when federal payments are made

We have provided a $ 4.5 million guarantee to the Detroit United Community Housing Coalition to provide a liquidity bridge for receiving federal rent assistance payments. We also gave a grant to the Coalition to work with the public school district to raise awareness and foster care for families with children.

4. Improve legal representation

Kresge has invested to strengthen the capacity of tenants to fully exercise their legal rights:

5. strengthen grassroots advocacy.

We have supported community-based organizations leading the kind of analysis, organization, media coverage and advocacy needed to keep pressure on officials to do things right:

We are, sadly, at the start of what is sure to be an excruciatingly painful and morally reprehensible process of people being punished – including landlords – for the devastating attacks on people’s ability to hold jobs and stay up to date on their rent or mortgage caused by COVID. We must do better. Our work at Kresge, although relatively few drops in the national bucket, will make a difference for thousands of people. It is one of those times when money must be paired with a lucid understanding of how to set in motion an absorption and distribution mechanism that is at the same time efficient, true to its purpose and equitable.


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