In March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced local nonprofit Star-C to suspend its after-school programs, the organization quickly shifted its focus to helping communities brace for a torrent of evictions expected to devastate Americans financially strained by the public health crisis.
On Tuesday, Star-C announced its Eviction Relief Fund — a program centered around facilitating remote education, bridging digital divides and providing hunger relief and rental assistance — had raised $9.9 million.
The fund, which was launched with a goal of raising just $50,000, has now been used to help more than 3,400 metro Atlanta families avoid eviction, according to a Star-C press release.
“We have fielded thousands of phone calls from so many hard-working people who just were simply not prepared for the consequences of the COVID pandemic,” Star-C founder Marjy Stagmeier.
The prospect of a “tsunami” of evictions, though, demands far more than a $10 million fund, so Star-C intends to keep fundraising for the foreseeable future.
Courtney English, the organization’s director of community development and a candidate for Atlanta City Council president, told Atlanta Civic Circle in an interview that this is “an all-hands-on-deck moment” — one that calls for not just help with rent and utility bills, but also broader economic recovery efforts.
Atlanta’s next generation of elected leaders, English said, needs to support local businesses and workers.
“Ultimately, this is really an economic conversation,” he said, pointing to a need for more jobs training and placement programs. “We need to ensure folks have money in their pockets so they can live where they want to live.”
Of course, English added, Atlanta can offset the negative side effects of the pandemic by growing its affordable housing stock.
In April, the city revealed it had identified nearly 900 acres of municipal land that Atlanta City Councilman Matt Westmoreland said “could have the potential to generate tens of thousands of affordable units.”
Said English: “We have to start turning dirt. Period. We have to start building like the world is coming to an end, because, for many of our families, it is.”