Area shelter anticipates ‘flood’ of evictions when moratorium expires

MADISON, Wis. — Congress has agreed to extend the federal moratorium on evictions and pass $25 billion in rental assistance in its latest coronavirus relief bill.

The combination of the two provisions is ideal for combatting evictions, according to Karla Thennes, the executive director of Porchlight, an organization that in part runs a men’s shelter in Madison.

Without rental assistance, Thennes said landlords and renters can suffer.

“When it’s over with if (renters) are going to owe four, five, six months’ rent how do you get on top of that? You don’t,” Thennes said.

Her organization also rents housing, and she said it’s important for landlords to be able to make the mortgage and pay utilities.

“Porchlight’s not going to go under, but there are mom and pop landlords who we love because they’ll give our family an opportunity, they’ll give our single veteran an opportunity, and they’re not going to make it if they don’t receive some sort of rental assistance,” she said.

The latest bill in Congress does that – offering $25 billion in rental assistance. It also extends an eviction moratorium by one month, through the end of January.

Thennes is optimistic about what happens when that expires but acknowledges it could lead to a flood in evictions.

She’s hopeful when the need arrives – the community will step up to help just like it always has.

“If you would have said a year from now, this is all going to happen, I think we all would have panicked and freaked out,” Thennes said. “But within two weeks we moved a huge shelter operation to another location. I wouldn’t have said we could do that. And then in like six hours we moved it to another location, and we’re all set up and serving twice as many people. It always just seems to work out because people want to help.”

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, put out two more pieces of legislation on Monday that he hopes the state legislature will pass.

In his second, longer-term bill he asks for DHS to be able to put a hold on evictions. It does not mention rental assistance.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who is a landlord, said he wouldn’t be in favor of passing something that tells people they don’t have to pay their rent.