As government programs end that helped prevent families and individuals from being evicted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many households face an unknown future.

In Maryland, the moratorium on evictions will end on July 25 – the moratorium began 120 days ago and was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the CARES Act, passed by Congress. Federal Unemployment Benefits, amounting to a $600 boost per week, will also end the week of July 25.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Parish Partners Program, which seeks to support parish staff and volunteers in their assistance of families through parishes, has been working to meet the needs of many low-income renters who could potentially face eviction. The Parish Partners Program has processed more than 900 emergency assistance applications – helping hundreds of households who lost employment due to the pandemic.

However, the Housing Opportunities Commission funds have only been able to assist about one-third of the families seeking aid.

According to Franciscan Father Jacek Orzechowski, who coordinates Parish Community Organizing and Advocacy efforts for Catholic Charities, as unemployment rates remain high and federal aid programs come to a close, many rental households face uncertainty. 

“We have among us many people who have been living, before the pandemic, paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “This situation in which they may have lost employment or their employment income has not left them with many personal savings to fall back on. They’ve been struggling to make ends meet as it is. They find themselves in a situation that they will be facing evictions.”

Many who are struggling, Father Orzechowski said, are members of the local immigrant, African American and Latino communities – where many people work in service jobs, the hospitality industry or in fields like construction work. 

“They don’t have the luxury of working out of their homes and keeping themselves safe,” he said, adding that many of them live in overcrowded conditions, often living with other families to make ends meet. “Right now it leaves them very exposed to the pandemic.” 

Father Orzechowski said part of the call of all Christians is to extend help to those in need and advocate on their behalf.  

“As a Church, we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, to care for what is happening to those who are the most vulnerable among us,” he said. “For us, the specter of this tsunami of evictions that will have devastating effects on thousands of families in our communities, this is a religious test. It is not just a social issue, a political issue, but a question we are asking is, ‘Are we being true to what we are called to as Christians?’” 

Catholic Charities will host workshops in the coming weeks to help parishes equip themselves to serve their communities, and to provide tenants with resources they may need. 

Pastors, staff and parish leaders are invited to a Catholic Charities workshop, “Dealing with the Threats of Eviction during the Pandemic,” where experts will discuss how to assist families who might face evictions in the future. The Zoom meeting will take place online on July 29 at 2 p.m.

Panelists will include members from the local Catholic community: Carmen Castro-Conroy, the Housing Initiative Partnership’s managing counselor for Montgomery County; Leo E. Green, Catholic Charities Legal Network staff attorney and former Prince George County District and Circuit Court Judge; Deacon Richard Walker, Catholic Charities D.C. parish relationship coordinator; and Marsha Raymond, the director of charity and social justice at St. Mary of the Mills Church in Laurel, Maryland.

To RSVP for the online program, email: [email protected].

A workshop for tenants will be held on August 11 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. The Meeting ID is 811 4007 1199 and the passcode is 058129. If you would like to call in, dial: 301-715-8592. For more information, email Father Jacek Orzechowski at [email protected]