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SF Council approves money to prevent evictions

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Santa Fe city councilors Wednesday approved using around $1.8 million to help homeless people and those in danger of losing their homes due to evictions.

The majority of the money represents some of the city’s first purchases using the $17 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding it received from the state in September.

Of that, $1.6 million will go toward a contract with the Family Independence Initiative, which aims to provide financial assistance to families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic who did not qualify for unemployment, stimulus money or other governmental benefits.

The current economic crisis, which has put thousands out of work by limited many sectors of the economy, has heightened worries about a possible eviction crisis if working families can no longer afford to pay rent.

City Community Services Director Kyra Ochoa said there’s a monumental need in the community for assistance and that some families may owe as much as $18,000 in back rent.

“It doesn’t go far enough to address the need for relief that so many of the families in Santa Fe are currently experiencing,” Ochoa said.

The program will distribute one-time awards to those who qualify: $750 to families who have seen a reduction in work hours or have lost their jobs entirely and $3,000 for those facing any threat of eviction from landlords.

Two local nonprofits, Somos Un Pueblo Unido and Chainbreaker Collective, will assist in connecting needy residents to the program so they can apply.

Chainbreaker Executive Director Tomas Rivera reiterated that the money is a temporary solution, not a permanent fix.

“There’s not going to be enough money to stop this from happening,” Rivera said of mass evictions. “At the end of the day, there’s going to need to be some policy conversations.”

Chainbreaker Collective and the city plan to release a report on the extent of the eviction problem in Santa Fe in November, he said.

Councilors also approved allocating $225,000 to the Salvation Army to set up a 25-bed shelter for homeless people at its West Alameda location.

Ochoa told councilors the city is currently trying to provide adequate bed space for homeless individuals before winter kicks in. The Interfaith Shelter normally provides more than 100 beds, which will now be reduced to 36 to maintain social distancing.

Along with the Salvation Army, beds will be provided at the city’s Midtown Campus shelter, St. Elizabeth’s shelter and around 40 beds in local motels, although the exact number of beds needed remains unknown.

“We hopefully have hit the number that we’re going to be able to meet this winter,” Councilor Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez said.