Banking on rental assistance for a lifeline

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lexington native Charles Gill has been pouring his heart and soul into his music, and now he’s pouring all that into keeping himself and his family from being evicted from their apartment.

Gill and his pregnant fiancé contracted COVID-19 in December and were stuck in quarantine for two months, unable to work. Then his fiancé had a difficult delivery that put them both out of work for another month and a half. He says both those setbacks put them behind on their rent payments by over $2,000.

“I’ve never had a financial situation like this until COVID. I’ve always kept my ducks in a row, always kept my bills paid,” said Gill.

Right now, he’s hoping and praying that he gets funding from the city’s rental assistance program to pay his back rent and that his apartment complex accepts it. So, his now four-month-old can continue to have a place to stay.

“Every time I would try to get up, we would deal with the apartment complex not trying to work with us, knowing we had the resources,” said Gill.

Gill has had difficulty navigating the application process. but hopes his apartment stays patient until he gets all the pieces together and receives funding.

Legal Aid of the Bluegrass says he’s not the only one in that stage of the process. The organization, which helps low-income people with legal aid, has lent a hand to help families like Gill’s navigate the paperwork.

“We help them upload those documents and then we work with the city and Community Action to get those applications approved as soon as we can,” said Brian Dufresne, Housing Legal Team Lead.

He says sometimes the process takes longer for some than others, but the timeline has greatly improved since the beginning.

“What we have right now with our Rental Assistance Program is it’s running more efficiently I think, than it than it ever has before,” said Dufresne. “Applications are being approved in some cases in the shortest five days.”

So far, the team has helped more than 700 people fill out applications for the Housing Stabilization Program funded by the city and run by Community Action Council.

Even though they’ve helped distribute $4.1 million in assistance, Dufresne says they still see landlords choose not to participate.

“What we’re seeing are some landlords are just not participating in the program as a matter of course, and other cases, it’s on a case-by-case basis based on the tenant,” said Dufresne.

When that happens, they do reach out to landlords on tenants’ behalf, but can’t force them to accept the program.

“There’s nothing in the program that can compel landlords to accept those rental assistance funds,” said Dufresne.

He says they try to remind landlords about the guaranteed money. The average payment is $6,000.

So far, the program has helped more than 3,510 renters, processing about $110,000 a day in payments to area landlords.

Ginny Ramsey, Director, and Founder of Catholic Action Center says Gill is not the only one in this situation. As a long-time housing advocate in the city, she says the need for rental assistance and housing in Lexington is at a critical point.

“In 23 years, we’ve never seen the kind of situation we’re in with the inflation, with the gas prices, with the food prices with the rent going up. It’s the Tsunami for those who are living on the edge,” Ramsey said.

She says the biggest hurdle families are facing right now is trying to get access to resources that can help them.

“They can’t unravel this maze of services that are available,” said Ramsey.

That’s why Ramsey is restarting Catholic Action Center’s “Save Their Homes” compassionate advocates. They started training for volunteers who will help those in need find social services resources like housing aid.

“Two years ago, we had 58 volunteers who did that for six months to connect people to resources and it makes quite a difference,” said Ramsey.

Right now, they’re working to grow their volunteer base and preparing for launch on July 11.

“It’s really a matter of the community surrounding this issue which is great,” said Ramsey.

LEX 18 reached out to Gill’s apartment complex. A regional manager said in an email they will gladly accept rental assistance funds but didn’t say whether they’ll be accepting his.

Unfortunately for gill, he’ll just have to wait and see what happens. However, he’s anticipating compassion and a second chance that will help him get back on his feet and back into his music.

Reach out to Catholic Action Center if you would like to volunteer to help.

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