South Bend preps for possible spike in eviction processes

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - President Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed executive orders halting court processes for evictions and foreclosures as part of the national response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Once those orders are lifted, landlords will be free to move forward with those processes, which have the president of the South Bend Tenant Association worried about the future.

"These people don't have any other recourse," Association President Rodney Gadson said. "After that, some of them don't have the stimulus checks. Some don't have the money, some waiting on unemployment. So, this is a brewing disaster for homelessness."

As the pandemic has claimed thousands of lives and shut down even more jobs, renters in St. Joseph County like Carol Gavin are left having to choose between paying her bills, buying food and paying rent.

"During the time and the process of this Coronavirus, I became the sole person to pay all the bills, car notes, utility bills and what have you," Gavin said. "I also had expenses that needed to be covered and waited to get money to pay my rent. I did pay my rent. It was late, but they tacked on a late fee. Why are you trying to pinch money out of people when we're in the time of a pandemic?"

Gavin was able to pay her rent. Therefore, she will not have a pending court date once the executive orders halting eviction processes are lifted.

Rodney Gadson said the South Bend Tenant Association is planning a food drive on May 9th from 11 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon at five different locations.

Those locations are:

Kroger on Western Avenue in South Bend

Maranatha Missionary Baptist Church

Miami Hills Apartments

Peter's Rock Missionary Baptist Church

Prairie Apartments.

Gadson said the plan is to distribute food to those who may have to choose between buying food or paying rent. He also said people will have an opportunity to register to vote and fill out the 2020 census in an effort to "make tenants better citizens."

Ervin Lee is another renter in St. Joseph County. He said he is so concerned about courts being overwhelmed that it may lead to another outbreak of COVID-19.

"First, if people are not tested, if people don't practice the safe habits that's been recommended by the CDC, I can see there being a restart of this whole thing," Lee said.

According to a St. Joseph County Courts spokesperson, the courts are putting measures in place to make sure they are not overcrowded at any given time. Eviction hearings are scheduled to begin on May 18, 2020 and will be limited to one hearing per half hour with a maximum of 12 hearings per day.

If you have a pending eviction court date coming after executive orders are lifted, St. Joseph County legal experts said there are sources online you can access for help.

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