In an effort to prevent evictions in Fort Bend County, several different type of agencies partner together to offer help. Many of them are affiliated with the United Way, pro-bono law firms or Continuum of Care. They use money from the Emergency Solution Grant program as well as HUD to both stop evictions and rehouse the homeless.
Since the demand for help is so high, unfortunately many people will not qualify for support. Priority is given to people who show the ability to pay the rent on their own in the future and who have taken the steps to gain self-sufficiency. Agencies are very hesitant to help a Fort Bend County family if they will then just fall behind and face eviction again month after month.
Once those criteria have been met, then the next priority is given to the most vulnerable. If a family with children is facing a short term hardship that could lead to homelessness, then eviction assistance may be given to them. Other priorities are for senior citizens, veterans and their families or victims of domestic abuse, among others.
There are three main approaches. One involves direct financial aid for paying rental arrears using government grants. Another is free legal assistance/advice in an effort to work out a payment arrangement with the landlord. The last option commonly used is moving the tenant into a new, more affordable home, also commonly referred to as rehousing. There are pros and cons to each approach.
Financial help is usually the preference of many tenants for eviction prevention. However this is the most difficult to obtain in Fort Bend County and other regions. First, any dollar amount paid out is minimal and will only pay for a small portion of arrears. Also, which is most critical, the client needs the ability to pay their bills on their own in the future, as the Continuum of Care will not pay rent for month in and month out.
Fort Bend non-profit agencies typically use emergency solution grants for paying housing costs, such as rent or utility bills. This is the primary federal government program used for stopping homelessness across the nation. When the money runs out (and it will) then no other clients will be able to receive help.
Law firms in the Fort Bend County Texas region also help deal with civil housing issues, which includes, but is not limited to eviction help. Attorneys will also deal with housing discrimination, especially for immigrants and non-English speakers. In some cases this advice will come with a minimal cost, but others (such as very low income families and seniors) can be given free legal aid on an ongoing basis.
If a tenant receives a pay or quit notice, an attorney will review it for them. They will look for any discrepancies and ensure that all rules and regulations of the state of Texas were followed. If a landlord serves an illegal eviction notice to the tenant, then court representation may be coordinated.
When a family is close to eviction and it turns out that they just can't afford their monthly rent and energy bills going forward, then rehousing may be available. This too is another form of homeless prevention that is advocated by many agencies, such as the United Way as well as United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This process will include everything from issuing free motel vouchers to placement into transitional housing or low income apartments.
After a close review of the household budget by one of the Fort Bend County Continuum of Care affiliated agencies, a determination will be made. This assessment will include a review of the client's income, their child care costs, housing needs, and more. Assistance may be provided as a result of this.
The agencies will help the resident locate a new home that is affordable and safe. Then, ESG grants may be used for paying for deposits (including utility or security), first month's rent, and moving costs. Ongoing support is given to to prevent a future eviction of the new home, and that may be information on job placement.
There are many agencies part of the homeless prevention process in Fort Bend. The funding comes and goes from each agency. If one can't help, then they will try to offer referrals to some other program in the region. For more details, call 713-957-4357.
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