Clinic helps renters behind on utility bills

NOW: Clinic helps renters behind on utility bills

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Community members turned out to the Charles Black Center to gain assistance applying for the St. Joseph County’s emergency rental assistance program. While attendance didn’t guarantee acceptance into the program many arrived ahead of the clinic start time - hoping for a chance to qualify for some of the funds.

“I’ve been waiting since like 12’ o-clock. I could wait 2 more hours as long as I’m here and they’re helping me I’m fine with that," said Diane Quinn, ERA applicant.

Quinn is one of many South Bend residents who fell behind with her utility bills during the pandemic - after catching COVID and not being able to work for several weeks.

“They said it was gonna start at 2’ o-clock. I got here at about maybe 20 minutes to 2 and you know waited out and so after all this time I come so I wasn’t able get the assistance that I thought I was gonna get today," said Maritta Freeman, a South Bend resident.

Long wait times and confusion over what qualifications were needed in order to apply for the program caused some to be turned away.

According to council member Henry Davis Jr., the program provided by the federal government only applies to those who are renters, but he hopes to inform community members of other programs in the near future for those who own their properties and also need assistance.

“The money that exists and the revenue that’s there is to help support people who are rental units, rental homes and ensuring that they have the capacity to continue on in those same homes," said Davis Jr.

Due to the large turnout council member Davis says, they’re hoping to host another clinic for those that weren’t able to receive help - in an effort to bridge the gap for tenants who haven’t been able to recover from the financial strains of the pandemic.

“We have to make sure that this is a continuous thing that’s happening. So the money that was invested by the federal government is completely used up and those who need it have the access to the dollar," said Davis Jr.

Those who were unable to turn out for today’s clinic are still able to apply for the program virtually.

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