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Frustrated Tenants Facing Evictions Shut Down Hearings in Jackson County

Kansas City Tenants.JPG
Jodi Fortino
/
KCUR
With rent due Saturday, dozens of Kansas City tenants protested the end of the federal moratorium halting evictions during the pandemic.

Tenants worried about looming evictions amid a surge in coronavirus cases demonstrated in front of the Jackson County Courthouse.

Two tenants were arrested today for disrupting the Jackson County Eviction Court in an effort to protect tenants facing evictions during the pandemic.

Members of the housing advocacy group, KC Tenants, managed to shut down all four Jackson County eviction dockets which the Court described as interfering with the rights of tenants and landlords.

With rent due Saturday and expanded unemployment benefits set to end soon, the group is afraid hundreds of thousands of Missouri tenants won’t be able to pay rent.

“Staying in my home is vital. I am a person with underlying conditions, whether or not I am evicted is the difference between life and death,” says Tiana Caldwell, one of the organizers with KC Tenants who is facing eviction and due in court tomorrow.

A statewide survey found that 33% of Missouri renters are unable to pay rent or are at risk of eviction.

The federal eviction moratorium expired last week, but Jackson County’s eviction moratorium expired earlier on May 31. KC Tenants says about 1000 evictions have been heard by the courts since then.

"Forty percent of those evictions have been filed in majority black and brown neighborhoods, affecting those most impacted by the pandemic anyway," says Caldwell.

Michelle Miller says evictions are not the only risk tenants have faced during the pandemic.

“I'm being told to stay home, but my home is making me sick,” said Miller.

She says her landlord hasn’t listened to her concerns about a lack of clean water at her home. Other tenants at the protests say their landlords have neglected to repair appliances and rid their places of pests infestations.

Miller says tenants need more protections especially for those who are disabled, and she wants the city to do more to help.

“We live in a wealthy country, in a wealthy area with plenty of money for things like police. Where’s the city money for our people? For our communities?,” said Miller.

Earlier this week, KC Tenants and a coalition of local civil rights groups sent a letter to Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas asking that he redirect half of the Kansas City Police Department’s budget to housing, healthcare and education programs.

Lucas has not directly commented on the letter, but says he has no plans to defund the police.

The group is also now demanding that Jackson County reinstates its eviction moratorium as tenants continue to financially recover during the pandemic.

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