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New program will help Tulsa area tenants facing eviction

Any eviction case filed as of May 31 is eligible
Posted at 7:06 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 20:17:39-04

TULSA, Okla. — Meet Julie Sandridge.

She's a single mother, sole breadwinner in her household, taking care of her four children and granddaughter.

She lost her job at a calling center during the pandemic and the bills started piling up. For the first time in her life, she almost faced homelessness.

"It was very stressful to not be able to pay my bills, but then on top of that, to not know day to day whether you're going to be evicted or whether you're going to have to move out," shares Sandridge.

A letter from her landlord came in the mail saying if her rent payment wasn't received by the end of April, she would be evicted.

"It was very scary because being in one home for your whole life. My kids were all raised here, and I didn't want to move away from my family home," says Sandridge.

The mother of four decided to seek help and reached out to Restore Hope Ministries in Tulsa about its rent assistance program.

"I just happened to find this agency, and I applied... they called me and they was able to help me with almost everything I was behind on," says Sandridge.

About $1,600 later, the nonprofit helped her avoid eviction by paying three months' rent.

Last year, Restore Hope Ministries helped 1,149 people prevent homelessness, according to the executive director.

"We’ve been helping families with rent assistance for over 20 years through our normal programming," says Jeff Jaynes.

The nonprofit has recently partnered with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Tulsa Area COVID-19 Response Fund, administered by the Tulsa Community Foundation and Tulsa Area United Way, to help both tenants and landlords during these uncertain times.

"Every tenant and every landlord that has a case filed as of May 31 is eligible for this program," says Jaynes.

He says the amount of the private donation could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The money aims to assist more than 500 families in the Tulsa area with rent payment.

It's a step in the right direction, according to Becky Gligo, the housing director of the City of Tulsa, but she fears the problem will only get worse in the fall.

"It's an incredibly generous gift, but we are still facing really a tsunami of evictions come September when the CARES Act expires," says Gligo.

Currently, there are 924 evictions filed in Tulsa County since March 16, according to Open Justice Oklahoma. This brings the total to more than 1,200 that were pending before the pandemic.

Sandridge says it's a blessing to have found help during this challenging time, but her fight isn't over yet. Another hurdle awaits if her unemployment check doesn't come in time to pay this month's rent. She's been waiting for nine weeks.

For anyone struggling to pay rent, Gligo suggests calling 211.

"They have folks who will help you connect you with the right services. They speak a variety of languages, and so anybody who calls 211 can get the help they need almost immediately," says Gligo.

Beyond the calling center, you can visit Restore Hope Ministries for more information on the new and existing rent assistance programs.

Another helpful resource is the Early Settlement Mediation Program, sponsored by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa. A mediator works with both tenants and landlords to help alleviate the past due rent and come up with practical solutions.

Eviction hearings, formally known as the Tulsa County Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) Docket, in Tulsa County resumed on June 1. In order to allow for social distancing, they've being temporarily held at the Tulsa County Family Juvenile Justice Center.

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