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'We're just surviving': Demand for rent relief remains high in the Kansas City metro

KCMO Emergency Rental & Utility Assistance
Posted at 7:00 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 12:19:52-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — As people continue to struggle during the pandemic, requests for emergency rental assistance are nothing new for SAVE, Inc.

Before the pandemic, staff members were used to fielding five to 10 calls per week.

"We're now getting easily 60 to 80 calls a night," SAVE, Inc. CEO Blaine Proctor, said in an interview on Thursday.

The nonprofit has been on the front lines of the housing crisis for 35 years, but none of them have been like the current year.

"Well over 75% of the people we're hearing from we've never had a relationship with," Proctor said.

Other nonprofits offering rental and utility assistance shared similar stories of calls flooding in from clients who have never used their services before.

Journey to New Life was fielding 75 to 100 calls per day earlier this month, shortly after KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas posted about the city's new emergency rental assistance program.

"Since February 1, we've served over 220 people," Susie Rolling, Director of Operations, said.

The nonprofit, which is dedicated to helping prisoners reenter the community, is about to be reimbursed by the city for the $360,000 spent to help those people.

On Thursday city leaders announced the allocation of $4.5 million to nonprofits, including Journey to New Life, Metro Lutheran Ministry and reStart, that are offering rental and utility assistance to Kansas Citians.

The funds are part of the $14.8 million in total coming to Kansas City from federal funding as part of a relief package passed by Congress late last year.

SAVE, Inc. is in the pipeline to receive some of that money, too, although the contracts have not yet been signed.

Both SAVE, Inc. and Journey to New Life were also recipients of CARES Act funding in 2020.

The city inked 19 contracts with various agencies, with a total of $3.6 million devoted to rental assistance.

That money must be spent by September 2022, while the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERAP) funds from the treasury have a deadline of Dec. 31, 2020.

Although it sounds like a large amount of money for rent relief, the demand in the metro continues to be massive.

Data the 41 Action News I-Team obtained from the United Way of Greater Kansas City, shows there were 4,325 requests to the 211 phone line for housing help in January and February alone.

For the same time period last year, the number was 2,831. The data includes Jackson, Clay, Cass, Platte, Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

"The demand that's out there for rental assistance far exceeds the money that's available," Proctor said.

The full extent of the need may not be known until July, after the eviction moratorium expires.

"We should be, but we're not. We're just surviving," Rolling said when asked if she was bracing for the summer.

For now Journey to New Life and Save, Inc. are focused on helping the people they can with the resources available at this moment.

If you live in Kansas City and need help, call 311 or fill out an application for help here.

People who live outside city limits should call the United Way at 211.

The Rebound Kansas City is our effort is to help metro residents play a role in moving our community forward. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas to via email to rebound@kshb.com and we welcome you to join in the conversation on the Rebound KC Facebook Group.

Whether you're Getting Back to Work after a layoff, need help Making Ends Meet during these trying times or need tips on Managing the Pressure we're all feeling, The Rebound has resources to find help. We'll also make sure local leaders are Doing What's Right to get Kansas City back track after a three-month shutdown.

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