When COVID-19 hit the Lehigh Valley last year, many families worried where they would be getting a paycheck to ensure they could keep a roof over their heads and their families safe from the pandemic.
Landlords, too, were faced with the possibility of severe financial hardship if rent could not be paid by their current tenants.
In July 2020, Third Street Alliance, along with five other non-profits in the Lehigh Valley, created the Eviction Prevention Program to help renters stay in their homes and connect landlords with government funding to pay rental arrears.
One Allentown property owner, Nelson, said he was worried he was “going to go under,” when COVID hit the Valley. But there was some relief on the horizon once he heard about the program from one of his tenants who couldn’t pay rent after losing his job due to the pandemic.
After reaching out to Third Street Alliance, Nelson and his tenant were quickly approved for the program. They are just one of more than 400 households that have received funding for rental relief through Third Street.
“I had a huge sigh of relief,” Nelson said. “Thank goodness we found this program, and we could manage. Otherwise, I would have had a problem paying my bills and taxes.”
Since first enrolling in the program, Nelson has approached several other tenants to get them enrolled in the program, boosting his relationships with his tenants.
Third Street Alliance has helped process more than $1.2 million in rental arrears applications, providing housing and financial stability to landlords and renters throughout the Lehigh Valley. Northampton County has recently received significant federal funding to continue this program and assist additional landlords and families. This funding and program will be vital to the community as the moratorium on eviction is due to expire in June.
Dr. Cattima Millsap, director of Homeless Services, attributes the success of the program at Third Street Alliance to the team’s ability to communicate with landlords and tenants, ensuring the required documents and all of the necessary paperwork is completed before it is submitted. Facilitating regular communication between all parties has helped maintain trust and positive relationships to fend off potential tenant eviction.
“Landlords and tenants are made aware that we are here to assist and be supportive of them throughout the process,” Cattima said.
While laid off from her restaurant job, Nina didn’t know how she was going to pay rent. “I felt a lot of anxiety and had so many unanswered questions,” she said. She didn’t see a way out of her situation until her landlord told her about the program. Nina connected with Cattima after reaching out to Third Street Alliance and was accepted into the program.
“Cattima was incredible and made the process feel a lot less awkward and frightening for me,” she said. “This program has literally kept a roof over my head. There’s no sugar-coating anything.”
Tenants and landlords who have been economically affected by COVID-19 can contact Ziana Keith for assistance at 610-438-1763.