Everyone’s experienced financial hardship at one point or another. An unexpected turn of events takes place and turns us upside-down, emptying our pockets. Now rent is due or you’re behind on your electric/water bill and you just don’t have it. With nowhere to turn, you are about to put shut off or shut out... or are you? Uncle Sam is here to help once every 12 months.
Every city has a special program that helps people when they can’t pay their rent, bills, groceries etc. The name for the program is different for each city but it will contain some variation of “Community Action Program” (CAP) or “Community Action Network.” (CAN). Just search “community action program in [city, state]” or you can also get this information by calling 2-1-1 for *Essential Community Services.
*In the US and Canada when you call “211” you will be connected to an operator who is knowledgable of thee various government health and human service agencies. After speaking with them they will be able to direct you to the proper department(s)/people(s) that will assist you. They provide their contact information either verbally or via text message and their live operators are available to help you 24/7/365!
Once you get in contact with them they will ask you if your landlord has started the eviction process and you have received a formal 5-day notice or other initial formal eviction document. You must have this paperwork to be eligible for the program which I know is kind of scary and you’d probably like to get help before it goes that far but that’s what they need in order to give you “emergency rental assistance.”
Now here’s the catch – they only assist the first five callers a month. They will give you a phone number with a day and a time like Monday at 9 AM. I know this sounds like a long shot but I have actually had success in getting people through 3 out of the 4 times I’ve called!
Each time we first got as many phones as we could use or borrow. Then, about five to ten minutes before the phone line would open, we would start calling the number non-stop from all of them. We do this because not every clock is going to be the same exact time so to atone for this variation you want to being calling early in case their clock is ahead of yours.
Before the lines open you will just get sent straight to voicemail. When you call the number and it rings, don’t hang up! Now you wait for possibly up to a half hour while it continues to ring before you will speak to someone. They answer callers in the order they were received and screen each individual to make sure they meet all the requirements of the program. They will keep more than five callers on the line because some people are not eligible for emergency rental assistance. If so they will move on to the next in line and you won’t know if you’ve made the cut or not until they finally get to you.
If you get through just follow their instructions and make sure you adhere to their schedule. Don’t be late to send documents or for appointments because even getting a day behind could put you past the payment deadline of the eviction.
If you don’t become one of the 5 people accepted, don’t start packing just yet because there are more institutions that may be able to help you. Search for other non-profit or charity organizations that provide similar assistance and local churches do help people regularly even if you are not a member.
Utilities are also processed through the same community action office and do not have a contest for you to win in order to receive aid. Ask them how you can participate in the program so you can keep the lights on and the water flowing.