Legal aid organizations work to connect Indiana renters, landlords with assistance

Indiana

LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, Ind. — Several legal aid organizations in Indiana are working to connect renters and landlords with emergency rental assistance that’s still available.

A report from the U.S. Department of Treasury has found 89% of federal rental assistance sent to states has not been distributed as of the end of July.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority has committed 20% of its funding, according to a spokesperson.

“Found myself on the side of eviction, which has never happened to me before,” said Jamila Jones, who lives in Indianapolis.

Jones said she had been facing eviction since October due to financial hardship from the pandemic.

Now she’s working with Indiana Legal Services to obtain emergency rental assistance to cover back rent and late fees.

“If I did not have Indiana Legal Services as my representation, I don’t know what I would be doing right now,” Jones said.

Indiana Legal Services and several other organizations that provide legal help are running clinics at small claims courts in multiple townships across Marion County.

The goal is to get tenants at risk of eviction, as well as landlords, connected with emergency assistance and legal guidance, according to Brandon Beeler, director of the Housing Law Center at Indiana Legal Services.

“A number of tenants we talk to, even here as much as rental assistance has been promoted and advertised, many tenants just don’t think they qualify,” Beeler explained.

Many other renters don’t know the assistance is available, according to Jacob Sipe, executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority has about $200 million in rental assistance left to distribute, Sipe said.

“There’s also utility assistance that also is available for renters who may have fallen behind on their rent or their utilities,” Sipe said.

Meanwhile, Indiana Legal Services is working to expand their clinics across the state, Beeler said.

“I have heard from a number of communities throughout the state who are aware of what Indianapolis has done through the TAP [Tenant Assistance Project] program and want to replicate it,” Beeler said.

There’s no deadline for renters to apply for the emergency rental assistance program, according to the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

The new guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department allows states to give out assistance to landlords and utility providers sooner.

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