A ascend, it seems, brings in another.
The dramatic and deadly increase in coronavirus cases has led to an increase in homelessness, said Pamela Payne, executive director of the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County.
Payne’s assessment is based on anecdotal information obtained through the coalition and its partners, which include Senator Philip D. Lewis Homeless Resource Center, Gulfstream Goodwill Industries, Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches, The Lord’s Place and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Bureau.
No new count of the homeless population has been taken since January, when a punctual counting found that 1,510 people were homeless in the county. This was an 8% increase from the 1,397 homeless people identified by the county in 2019.
But with more cases of the coronavirus – the 57,619 cases diagnosed in Florida in the first week of December were more than those diagnosed in the virus’s first three months – Payne said more people were counting on the coalition.
The spread of the virus has slowed and in some cases closed businesses, leading to leave and job losses, which in turn make paying rent or a mortgage difficult.
“I think the pandemic will continue to make the situation worse,” Payne said.
As it has done throughout the pandemic, the virus is forcing some tough choices to be made.
“It’s a catch-22,” Payne said. “Work can lead to the spread of the virus. But unemployment is a big culprit in homelessness. If you don’t have a job, you don’t have a home.”
The state of Florida and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have both issued orders prohibiting evictions and foreclosures for people who are struggling to afford their housing. The stimulus bill, as it stood on Wednesday, would extend the moratorium until January 31, but President Donald Trump has threatened to veto it.
In October, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted the state’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, saying he was doing so “to avoid confusion over whether the CDC’s eviction order should apply in a particular circumstance “.
Florida tenants still have some protection until Dec. 31 against eviction through the CDC’s moratorium. Tenants will have to show that they cannot pay due to the loss of income directly related to the pandemic.
The CDC’s moratorium does not offer protection to people with mortgages, but homeowners with federally guaranteed loans will have some protection against foreclosures thanks to lenders linked to the Federal Housing Administration, which has banned mortgage loans. seizures during the pandemic.
“The moratorium on evictions has been helpful,” Payne said. “People owe a trillion dollars, but they are at home.”
United States Representative Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, said she knew the pandemic was spreading physical and economic pain to a wide range of people, especially the homeless.
“Homeless people face greater health risks and less assistance as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate,” she wrote in an email to the Palm Beach Post . “Unfortunately, it is likely that we will see an increase in homelessness due to more job losses and financial strains.”
While some lost their homes during the pandemic, others who were homeless before the outbreak are struggling to get back on their feet as the situation rages on.
For years, the Lewis Center has been the focal point of the county’s efforts to end homelessness. Its capacity was limited to 70 beds until July, when it opened a temporary 120-bed annex near the South Florida Fairgrounds.
Some of the first residents of the annex were people who had lived in a makeshift “tent city” in John Prince Park in Lake Worth.
After locals voiced their safety concerns, county officials moved to clean up the park of its homeless residents, who violated the order forcing people to leave the park when it was closed for the day.
Homeless people looking for accommodation can stay at the Lewis Center for up to 90 days if the center has a bed.
While the Lewis Center can provide safe and temporary housing, the Homeless Coalition and its partners fundraise to provide a range of services.
The coalition’s website outlines what donations can provide:
- $ 5,300 to house a homeless family for three months
- $ 1,200 to house a homeless person for two months
- $ 225 provides a 25% rent subsidy for one month.
- Smaller donations can be used to offset the cost of meals for those staying at the Lewis Center.
“We just need to raise more money,” Payne said. “There are needs. If we had more money, we could place more people. Mitigate the push.”
This article originally appeared on the Palm Beach Post: Homelessness and COVID: Unemployment pushes more people out of their homes