CLEARWATER, Fla. — Evictions in Florida have been placed on hold by the governor until at least the end of the month due to the pandemic. However, RCS Pinellas says it is inevitable that there will be families forced out of their homes at some point because they can’t pay the rent.
“Before coming here I felt hopeless, I felt like a failure, like I let my daughter down,” said Lisa Deyo.
Deyo and her four-year-old daughter Keyana moved into the shelter Grace House last year when Deyo was no longer able to pay her rent.
“I didn’t have any other family, any friends, so I had nowhere else to go,” said Deyo. “From the minute I walked through the door they actually made me feel that they cared about me and that I was actually family.”
Grace House is unique compared to many shelters. Their number one goal is to keep families together.
“The reality is if you are homeless and you have children then most shelters require you to split the family up,” said Kirk Raysmith, president of RCS Pinellas. “So it’s really important that we keep the family together, and as a family, they will go through this crisis and as a family, they will come out.”
Raysmith said RCS Pinellas facilitates half of the beds in homeless shelters across the county. They are watching the pandemic very closely.
“We absolutely expect when that moratorium is lifted an influx of families coming to us,” said Raysmith.
RCS Pinellas is worried they could run out of room, so they are encouraging families to reach out for help before it’s too late.
“We have a number of programs and services in place to prevent homelessness, so if there is an issue with your utilities we’ll help with utility assistance, if there is an issue with rent we’ll help you pay your rent,” said Raysmith.
However, if an eviction does take place, Deyo would be the first to tell you, there is still hope. She looks back at her old living quarters with positive memories, Grace House helped her get back on her feet.
“They helped me learn about finances, about healthy eating, about spending habits, about budgeting, so that I don’t end up back in that situation,” said Deyo.
“Families stay with us for up to 12 weeks and we are proud that we have a 90% success rate, nine out of ten families that come to us go on to permanent housing,” said Raysmith.
For more information, go to rcspinellas.org.