Agencies push awareness of rent/mortgage duties, relief

Social service agencies know there are two curves that impact communities in crisis: the immediate impact from the event and the second wave of impact on residents in the weeks and months following.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is no exception, said Nancy Chance, Hamilton County’s coordinator for service organizations active in disaster relief and executive director of the Good Samaritan Network. Just weeks into the crisis, her agency saw an 82 percent increase in requests for support last week as rents and mortgages came due.

The National Multi-Family Housing Council reported that 13 percent more Americans failed to pay their rent in April than in the previous year, putting as much as one-third of all renters at risk for housing insecurity. That number is expected to increase as the country continues to combat the pandemic and look toward recovery.

A group of housing-related service agencies wants residents to be aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Studies show more than 60 percent of Hamilton County residents already spend more of their budget than is recommended on housing-related costs, said Andrea Davis, interim executive director of HAND Inc. The community development organization’s website is serving as the clearinghouse for local housing resources during the crisis.

“We want residents who may be out of work or on reduced pay during the pandemic to know that while all evictions and foreclosures have been temporarily ‘paused’ by Gov. Eric Holcomb, everyone ultimately will be responsible for that rent or mortgage,” said Danielle Carey Tolan, Trustee for Westfield Washington Township.

Agencies such as the Noblesville Housing Authority want to urge residents whose income has been affected by COVID-19 to contact their landlord or mortgage holder as soon as possible to discuss payment options. And when households receive their checks from the CARES Act, they should prioritize its use.

For those simply unable to continue to pay their rent and/or utilities despite the government programs, there is a small pool of emergency funds available locally, depending on eligibility.

If denied assistance by your township trustee or other source, residents can reach out to the Good Samaritan Network at and apply for support there. Generally, support is limited to one month, however.

 Utility companies also have announced forbearance during the crisis, but those fees also continue to accrue. Hamilton County residents apply for help from Good Samaritan Network’s Energy Assistance Program.

 “Demand for these services will be much higher than normal,” said Nancy Ramsey, Executive Director of Family Promise of Hamilton County, which provides temporary housing for families facing homelessness. “Our program can provide supportive services should homelessness happen, but we want to use preventative measures to keep families housed.”