Opinion: Teaming up to help tenants in tough times

Writing in The Oklahoman in May about the challenges presented early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the executive director of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma said, “The Oklahoma Standard is visible daily in our legal profession.”

Those words from Michael Figgins continue to ring true, as Legal Aid attorneys work with the housing assistance group Community CARES Partners to help keep residents from being evicted — at least for now.

Reporter Kayla Branch highlighted the organizations’ efforts in a story that offered a reminder of the many caring people throughout this community.

Community CARES Partners was formed to help those facing COVID-19-related income loss. The organization has access to $24 million in city, county and state housing assistance funds that were part of the coronavirus relief package approved by Congress.

Oklahoma City residents can apply for funds to pay for rent or utilities as soon as they realize they cannot pay. Branch noted that by applying the money strategically, Community CARES Partners has been able to cover back rent and pay forward through the end of 2020. Landlords who know assistance is available often hold off on filing evictions, directing renters to Community CARES and local service providers.

Judge Trent Pipes has urged mediation between property owners and tenants when a case makes it to an eviction docket. More cases are getting resolved, Pipes said, “because of the availability of direct rent assistance from various sources and input from Legal Aid.”

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