The coronavirus outbreak and subsequent government orders to limit social interaction is affecting low-income residents’ ability to make a living.
Many people who use housing assistance have service jobs, such as for restaurants and stores, and/or work part-time, Weatherford Housing Authority Executive Director Rosie Muciño said. The virus outbreak has led to stores and restaurants closing, or employees working less than normal hours.
The Weatherford Housing Authority gets a certain amount of money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist people with rent, and with people losing jobs or work hours, the housing authority is being asked to pay full rent, Muciño said.
“We won’t be able to pay full rent for everybody that’s on housing,” Muciño said. “There’s not enough money for that.”
Last week, HUD Secretary Ben Carson authorized a temporary ban on foreclosures and evictions for Federal Housing Administration-insured properties for 60 days.
“[Last week’s] actions will allow households who have an FHA-insured mortgage to meet the challenges of COVID-19 without fear of losing their homes, and help steady market concerns,” Carson said in a press release. “The health and safety of the American people is of the utmost importance to the department, and the halting of all foreclosure actions and evictions for the next 60 days will provide homeowners with some peace of mind during these trying times.”
Muciño said. The Weatherford Housing Authority will continue to pay its rent portion as long as it receives money from HUD. Landlords should also not be raising rent at this time, she said.
“Knowing what’s going on here, the landlords are still wanting to raise the rents in May or June,” Muciño said. “They need to stop doing that because it’s going to cause anxiety.”
As of Friday, Muciño said 358 people are on the waitlist for housing assistance, which is up from last month by almost 60 people. The housing authority has 518 housing vouchers and is actively assisting with 511 vouchers.
“If we have to pay more rent, then we’re going to have to assist less people, less families,” Muciño said.
As far as paying for utilities, the Weatherford Municipal Utility Board is scheduled to meet Thursday and discuss temporarily suspending policies regarding late payment penalties and non-payment disconnects because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Another group of people struggling during this time is the homeless population. Hearts Full of Love, a ministry serving Parker County’s homeless, is making adjustments because of the outbreak.
Hearts Full of Love board director and volunteer Laurie McCullar said the fellowship with homeless people has been temporarily suspended. The organization’s food pantry has moved to a drive-through format, and Central Christian Church is also serving to-go breakfast on Saturday mornings.
Homeless people can be more at-risk for coronavirus because they don’t have healthcare access or the option to quarantine, McCullar said. They are also missing the community fellowship that they are used to when involved with Hearts Full of Love, which can still provide food and housing but can’t spend the time like before.
“We’re focused on letting them know that they are valued and they are loved and that care, and kind of pulling them out of that isolation and out of that thought that they’re all alone, and this situation, what’s going on puts them right back there,” McCullar said. “We aren’t able to gather. We’re not able to have the community and it’s because of their safety, our safety, everybody’s.”
McCullar said volunteers are still checking in with their homeless friends despite not being able to meet in person.
Homeless people are also less able to make health-conscious decisions, like eating healthy or buying hand sanitizer, McCullar said.
More people are needing basic items like groceries and housing, McCullar said.
“The way the program works is we kind of have a line and we have to find a house for this person, then we get to go to the next person in line, and so that line, we’re in fear of [it] getting longer and longer,” McCullar said. “People are calling for basic needs. There’s a huge need for groceries. There’s always been a need, but now that need is larger for people to help provide and meet the needs because there were other resources for them before, and now they’re just not available.”
With donations they've received, Hearts Full of Love volunteers have put together with food, water, hygiene kits, immune boosters and educational materials on coronavirus to be distributed.
"Needs we currently have to add to the packages and to make sure we have plenty are water, hand sanitizers and pop top foods," McCullar said.
Those who are unsheltered can contact Hearts Full of Love at 817-677-1312 for assistance.
HUD has also announced more than $118 million in grants to support local homeless assistance programs across the country earlier this month.
Parker County Relations Officer Staci Markwardt said the county provides financial resources to local nonprofits to help families in need.
“It is through their efforts that the families of Parker County get the help that they need,” Markwardt said. “In addition, we have been in touch with local organizations that have available resources that can help provide support during this challenging time.”