New program in Largo helping families avoid eviction

Posted at 6:04 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 21:58:35-04

Largo is taking a big step to keep families in their homes. Tuesday night, city leaders will invest $21,000 additional dollars into a program to keep people from being evicted. 

The program is changing lives. 

Sara Morris wishes she could have avoided eviction from her Pinellas County apartment of 3 years. She will never forget the gut wrenching feeling of coming home to find an eviction notice on the door.

“My whole world just crashed,” she explained. The single mom lost her job after getting into a car crash. As the bills piled up, she tried to negotiate with her apartment for a rent extension. 

“I thought we’d reached a deal, but 4 days later I got an eviction notice.”

With no place to turn, Morris and her 4-year-old son Jaden ended up at a homeless shelter.  The “Homeless Empowerment Program” in Clearwater is helping her get back on her feet, alongside 88 other families.

Stories like Morris’ are becoming too common and Largo is stepping in.

“We thought we need a program to help those people,” explained Matthew Anderson, the housing manager for the city of Largo.

Largo is expanding their programs to help people avoid eviction, fix up dilapidated homes and provide down payment assistance to help more people stay in their homes when they hit hard times. 

A big part of the program is only giving families enough money to get by, that way they learn how to budget and be financially independent. The program helps pay a few months of rent, utility bills and any owed rent money.

The city uses state funds and partners with local non-profits to help families. 

The CHAP or community housing assistance program at Homeless Empowerment Program estimates there are 6,000 homeless individuals in Pinellas County alone, and these eviction prevention programs will help reduce that number.