Providence launches $1M eviction-assistance program

MAYOR JORGE ELORZA on Tuesday announced a $1 million program to help residents with low incomes who are facing eviction pay for rent and legal services. / PBN FILE PHOTO/STEPHANIE ALVAREZ EWENS

PROVIDENCE – The city will set aside nearly $1 million to help residents facing eviction pay rent and legal services, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza announced on Tuesday.

The pilot program comes in partnership with Crossroads Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Center for Justice and Rhode Island Legal Services using federal funds secured through the CARES ACT, as well as Providence’s Housing Trust Fund.

The money will allow Rhode Island Center for Justice and Rhode Island Legal Services to provide legal assistance for up to 1,000 eviction cases when courts reopen, as well as emergency housing assistance to residents with low incomes through Crossroads RI via the Housing Helps RI platform.

Elorza aims to make the program a permanent and expanded fixture, tying in with his goal for universal eviction defense services for all residents below a certain income level. He emphasized the importance of quality legal defense for residents facing eviction, as well as the cycle of poverty that eviction creates.

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“When you get evicted, then poverty is the result and it’s the kind of poverty that’s almost impossible to dig yourself out of,” Elorza said.

While eviction cases were on hold for several months, “an avalanche” of cases is anticipated when courts reopen, Elorza said. Even before the onset of COVID-19, evictions were a growing problem in Providence, with approximately 2,700 evictions filed each year. 

Rental assistance is also of growing importance amid rising prices and gentrification, with nearly half of city renters “cost-burdened” – meaning they pay more than 30% of their income on housing.

Those seeking legal assistance – both private and public housing renters – can call R.I. Center for Justice at 401-491-1101 or Rhode Island Legal Services at 401-274-2652. To request emergency housing assistance, fill out Housing Help RI’s online screening tool; residents must have lived in-state for a year, have proven loss of income due to COVID-19 and earn at or below 80% of median income in the area to qualify.

The city will also hold a virtual information session about the new program on July 14 at 6 p.m.

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