As hundreds of children and families in Central Florida face potential eviction at the end of next month, the book of Deuteronomy (15:7-8) shares the Lord’s wisdom for our community: “If one of your kindred is in need in any community in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor close your hand against your kin who is in need. Instead, you shall freely open your hand and generously lend what suffices to meet that need.”
The scripture provides a biblical framework when considering how to assist the thousands of people and families in Florida who could find themselves homeless when the federal eviction moratorium ends July 31. The federal order — created in response to the Covid pandemic — prevents landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent if the tenant meets certain qualifications. While the federal moratorium has provided relief to renters, it does not release or forgive a tenant’s obligation to pay rent, so their rent obligations have been compounding in the past year.
The moratorium has been a crucial aid for Florida’s renters because there is no state eviction moratorium. By some estimates, the average Central Florida tenant is six months behind on their rent, creating a historic need for community aid. To be sure, many landlords have also suffered in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic through the loss of rental income.
The once-a-century pandemic has hit the Sunshine state especially hard: A recent study by AdvisorSmith Solutions said 15.6 percent of renters in Florida are at risk of eviction, the second highest rate in the U.S. Another recent study from Rent.com found the average rent in Orlando was 34.9 percent of the average monthly income, compared with the national median of 26 percent.
Anticipating Covid’s pressure on our community, The Catholic Foundation’s Board of Directors last year proactively established the Mercy Fund, which supports Central Florida’s increased needs since the arrival of the pandemic for food, housing, utilities, and behavioral health assistance. The board approved an initial investment of $10,000 to seed the Mercy Fund and an additional $15,000 to match donations to this fund. In all, the Mercy Fund has raised a total of nearly $80,000 through donor generosity that has helped to alleviate suffering among our neighbors.
Our community’s compassion to alleviate suffering is visible at Catholic Charities of Central Florida. Since the arrival of the pandemic, Catholic Charities food assistance to our community is up five-fold, and housing and utilities assistance has increased as well. Donor gifts to the Mercy Fund provide Catholic Charities with the resources to meet our community’s increased needs. With the federal eviction moratorium ending next month, hundreds of Central Florida families will need rental assistance to avoid homelessness. Preventing homelessness is the most affordable way for our community to reduce homelessness.
As the book of Deuteronomy lovingly teaches us, helping our neighbors by giving to the Mercy Fund provides the opportunity to “freely open your hand and generously lend what suffices to meet” the needs of our brothers and sisters. Please prayerfully consider making a gift to the Mercy Fund at www.cfocf.org/MercyFund. God bless you.
It is not that I am eager for the gift; rather,
I am eager for the profit that accrues to your account.