CLEVELAND — Brenda Lee Elkins-Wylie was just days away from losing the eastside Cleveland rental house that's been home to her two dogs and cat for the past two years.
Elkins-Wylie told News 5 the COVID-19 pandemic caused her to lose both of her jobs earlier this year and despite help from two local rental assistance agencies, she was just one step away from living on the streets.
“It was real tough, I was doing security and then I went into daycare," Elkins-Wiley said.
“I got behind in the rent and the landlord took me to court a couple of times.”
“I wasn't sleeping well at night, I was stressed out, and when I slept, I was having nightmares.
But Elkins-Wiley credits Slavic Village Development and its relatively new rental assistance program that's administered through its Healthy Homes initiative for saving her way of life.
"It was like somebody bringing a meal to a hungry person, that’s what it was like.”
Slavic Village Development Executive Director Chris Alvarado reports the program has distributed more than $30,000 and has kept 300 families in their homes during the on-going pandemic.
Alvarado said funding for the program came from the Cleveland Foundation, and from some generous donations, which have really helped keep people from being homeless.
"We're identifying those gaps that do exist between different funding sources," Alvarado said.
“The bigger solution needs to take place at the federal level.”
Lynn Rodemann, with Slavic Village Development housing support services, said complicated applications and home inspection requirements made it difficult for some northeast Ohio renters to get the federal rental assistance they desperately needed.
"If they weren’t able to provide the paperwork that they needed, or if their unit wasn’t able to pass inspection then we were looking at possibly 200 eviction cases.”
“Our program is really just getting started, now we have 500 new applications coming down the line, so this work is only going to get more important, particularly as the eviction moratoriums get released.”
Right now the program is just for Slavic Village residents, but Rodemann pointed to rental resources provided by CHN Housing Partners, EDEN, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and United Way's 211 Helplink as crucial tools to prevent eviction.
Those who qualify for the Slavic Village program should contact residents resources at 216-429-1182.
Meanwhile, Elkins-Wiley is hoping the federal government will extend the current eviction moratorium, which is still set to expire on March 31.
“If somebody is struggling and they’re trying to pay bills, and this eviction comes in, it’s scary, so I think they should,” Elkins-Wiley said.
“We deserve that from our government, you know, we really do. We deserve to have them extend it.”