Big Bend area legal services brace for tsunami of evictions

Help is available for North Florida residents
Posted at 5:14 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 17:14:53-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Community groups and homeless shelters are bracing for a wave of families who may be forced out of their homes in the coming weeks.

“We’re expecting what everybody has been saying is a tsunami of evictions,” explained Stephanie Johnson, the managing attorney of the Tallahassee office for Legal Services for North Florida. “We’re very worried about it, and we know landlords are worried about it too.”

Calls for eviction advice have increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic.

“In Tallahassee, we probably get five calls a day. Before the pandemic, we got about five a month,” Johnson added.

People are asking what to do when they’re served eviction papers. Since March, there have been nearly 800 eviction cases filed in Leon County. Renee Miller, the executive director of City Walk Urban Mission in Tallahassee is helping people who out run out of options.

“We do have people who are being evicted,” Miller said. “Maybe their unemployment has run out, or they didn’t get unemployment, or their jobs or businesses haven’t recovered.”

Once you’re out on the street in the middle of the pandemic, finding help can feel impossible. Barbara Allen turned to City Walk last month. While she wasn’t evicted from her home, she explained how choices are limited for people looking for a place to live.

“Not only did the pandemic influence where people really had no place to say, but the bathrooms where people can clean their hands – they were shut down,” Allen explained.

Now, Johnson and her colleagues work hard to help.

“We have really good attorneys who don’t sleep much, so we’re making do,” Johnson said.

She urged anyone who receives eviction papers to call someone for advice immediately.

Legal Services of North Florida has forms and how-to guides on what to do if you’re served eviction papers. Their office visits are currently by appointment only.

For more information or to make an appointment with the Tallahassee office for Legal Services of North Florida, click here.