Missouri housing advocates: Halt evictions for now

Chief justice implored to invoke six-month moratorium

Missouri housing advocates are calling for Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice George W. Draper III to end evictions in the state for at least six months - including all filings, hearings, enforcement and other related legal proceedings.

Addressing Draper in a Thursday morning virtual conference call with other advocates and reporters, Kalila Jackson said, "You have the legal authority and a moral duty to issue a statewide eviction moratorium, in order to prevent mass evictions in the state of Missouri."

Jackson is the senior attorney with the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council.

Missouri housing advocates have been seeking since the spring for the state to take action on evictions and other housing issues during the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic crisis.

Missouri NAACP president Rod Chapel was also among speakers on Thursday morning's call. Chapel said evictions disproportionately affect the same populations that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 - Black and brown communities, and the working class.

He said evictions "would put people directly into harm's way" of COVID-19.

Advocates said the options for people who lose their homes after falling behind on rent because of losing their jobs to the pandemic are moving into shelters, motels and cars, doubling up with other people in other housing units, or living on the street - none of which are ideal situations for individuals or their communities to stay healthy during the pandemic.

Tiana Caldwell, a leader of KC Tenants, said 361,000 Missouri households are unable to make rent and are at risk of being evicted, and an estimated 243,000 evictions would be filed over the coming months in the state.

Caldwell cited those numbers from data of Stout Risius Ross, LLC - a Chicago consulting and investment banking firm.

As further foundation to their demands, Jackson cited an Aug. 8, 2020, executive order from President Donald Trump. The order "Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners" - includes "it is the policy of the United States to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, residential evictions and foreclosures during the ongoing COVID-19 national emergency."

In addition to Draper, Missouri housing advocates are also asking Gov. Mike Parson "to stem homelessness by prioritizing prevention programs that will keep tenants in their homes, and by investing in permanent, truly affordable, supportive housing," according to a letter to Draper.

"Additionally, we have asked Gov. Mike Parson to make funding available to property owners if they cancel rent payments and arrears, do not pursue formal or informal evictions, and adhere to a set of strict conditions for the protection of Missouri tenants and their families related to receipt of public funding," the letter added.

In addition to KC Tenants, the Missouri NAACP and Metropolitan St. Louis EHOC, signers of the letter included the ACLU of Missouri; aldermen, alderwomen and city council members of St. Louis; Missouri Faith Voices and other clergy; law school professors from public and private institutions in the state; and numerous community organizations.