Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Wilmington’s Good Shepherd boosted by public funding as over $3.7 million pours in for rent and utility relief

Good Shepherd Center has recently been inundated with a wave of federal funding to help prevent evictions and homelessness in the region. (Port City Daily/File)
Good Shepherd Center has recently been inundated with a wave of federal funding to help prevent evictions and homelessness in the region. (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — Wilmington’s Good Shepherd Center is overwhelmed (in a good way) with a recent wave of public funding to prevent and reverse evictions and homelessness amid Covid-19 economic hardships.

Over the span of just a few weeks, the non-profit will have been infused with $3.7 million from three different government agencies, between three pots of funding, with two more on the way.

Related: With evictions looming, will rent assistance arrive in time, and will it be enough?

It’s the most money the non-profit has ever seen over such a short period of time.

“This is the worst best problem we’ve ever had,” Kyle Abrams, the center’s assistant director, said Friday.

Funded by the CARES Act and funneled through various groups, the federal money is designated to either prevent evictions and utility shutoffs by paying past-due rent or save people from homelessness who were recently evicted, depending on the program. Payments funded through the CARES Act are made directly to landlords, utility companies, or other parties owed funds as opposed to directly to individuals in need.

Because each tranche of funding comes with slightly different rules and requirements, the center has been busy fine-tuning details and hiring extra help before it’s ready to start awarding payments to eligible recipients in the community.

“We’re trying to keep up with it. It’s been a little crazy but we’re really excited to be able to help families struggling with evictions,” Abrams said. “Good Shepherd’s trying to tackle it every way we can.”

Last Friday, the center was notified it would be awarded nearly $2.5 million from the N.C. Office of Recovery & Resiliency to help prevent evictions. This source of money recently became available through N.C. Governor Roy Cooper’s housing and utility assistance initiative, announced late last month.

Unlike the other grant awards, Good Shepherd didn’t apply for this funding; the state program selected the center because it already was in the process of managing a similar program with federal funding.

When Abrams first found out, he said he had to read the message several times over. “Is this a real number?” he said he asked himself. “That type of money in this community is unheard of.”

This particular $2.46 million pot of funding will help prevent evictions in Brunswick County, Pender County, and New Hanover County. To date, it’s the first block of funds made available to assist Pender and Brunswick County residents on the brink of eviction. Before, federal funding had only been made available to city residents and New Hanover County residents through the county’s Department of Social Services.

Tuesday, Wilmington City Council is set to award Good Shepherd a second batch of funding: $500,000 to top off the $420,000 it granted the center last month.

The $920,000 funneled through the city is designated for preventing evictions within city limits. If approved Tuesday, the $500,000 must be spent by the end of 2020, Abrams said.

Lastly, the center was infused with $330,000 from the NCDHHS through its Rapid Re-Housing Emergency Solutions Grants Program. This funding is designated for people who have already been evicted and will help pay moving, security deposit, first month’s rent, and other costs to help them restabilize. Abrams said the center is expecting another batch of funding for this program but isn’t sure exactly how much it’ll be or when it’ll arrive.

“This is like a triple windfall,” Abrams said. “It’s really great.”

With the bulk of the funding still new, the Good Shepherd Center hopes to have assistance available to eligible recipients in the coming weeks. Its Eviction Prevention Program funded through the city is already well underway and currently accepting applications.

Once the other programs are set in stone, Abrams said those struggling with Covid-19 financial issues related to housing can call the United Way hotline at 211 and will be rerouted to the proper program.

“Through the [Eviction Prevention Program] we’ve definitely seen how devastating Covid-19 has been for our low-income community. Even people not on the poverty line are still struggling,” he said.


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