2021 could bring wave of evictions across the country

Posted at 12:01 PM, Dec 21, 2020

LAKE CHARLES, La. — Wrapping gifts during the holidays is a highlight for Stacy Williams, as she does it even for friends and family who ask her to do theirs. This year, though, the normally happy task masks a sad year.

“There's no tree. There’s no decorations,” she said. “It's just not something that I'm used to because Christmas is my favorite time of year.”

Williams and her family evacuated their rental home in southwest Louisiana just before Hurricane Laura in August.

“Then in the midst of everything, between Laura and also [Hurricane] Delta, we lost my mom,” she said.

It is a deep loss Williams is still trying to come to terms with, as she faces a potential new loss: eviction from her home.

“So many people are going through it and it's just like, ‘what are we supposed to do?’” Williams said.

It’s not hard to find damage around Lake Charles, but it is hard to find suitable housing for those who have been displaced, months after Hurricanes Laura and Delta tore through there.

“It's been a very dynamic and ever-evolving situation,” said Stephanie Wagner with the American Red Cross of Louisiana.

The Red Cross is working to help Williams and others find a new place to live because hurricanes impacted their work and living situations.

“For the financial assistance that is provided, that is one of the uses that residents can use it for,” Wagner said. “It can be used for a down payment. It can be used to kind of supplement what they may need for any kind of rental assistance and we are partnering with other agencies including FEMA, to again find either temporary housing or more long-term and sustainable housing for these individuals.”

However, for others not impacted by natural disasters across the country, help is far more limited and the potential for evictions far more widespread.

According to the Census Bureau, one-third of all the households in the country are behind on their rent or mortgage.

Aside from the District of Columbia, the states with the highest percentage of people facing eviction are South Dakota, followed by North Carolina, Georgia, Oregon, New Mexico, Wyoming, Ohio, Arizona and Louisiana.

For now, Williams is just trying to stay positive and keep it all in perspective.

“As much as you want to give up, don't,” she said. “Because even in the midst of all of this, I'm still going to hold onto faith and hope that ‘a way’ will be made out of ‘no way.’”

The current COVID-19 relief bill that Congress has been working on would potentially extend the moratorium on evictions through February. As of now, that moratorium expires on January 1.