Wells Fargo Foundation has announced that it is providing nearly $11 million in additional grant funding to seven legal-assistance organizations and 12 housing counseling agencies to help keep people housed. Since March of last year, Wells Fargo has provided more than $25 million in grant funding to national non-profit housing and legal assistance organizations in support of housing counseling, renter stabilization, and eviction avoidance.
Miecho Saffo is just one of more than 250,000 renters and homeowners who will have been helped through the effort. Prior to the pandemic, Saffo and her three children settled into their new rental home in St. Louis. During the pandemic, Saffo was furloughed from her job and worried about paying rent and bills. Beyond Housing, a local non-profit that received a Wells Fargo grant, helped clients with utility bills, rental assistance, food security, and ultimately, helped keep Saffo and her family in their home.
“We are thrilled to be part of Miecho’s story, and it’s just one of thousands of examples that have resulted from our collaboration with non-profit housing organizations as we work together to help keep people in stable housing,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, Head of Housing Affordability Philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “The economic fallout of COVID-19 has caused housing instability for far too many renters, and Wells Fargo believes supporting organizations that provide legal assistance, housing counseling, and other housing support is an important step in helping people avoid eviction, which is often the first step toward additional financial and housing instability.”
Non-profit housing counselors have helped homeowners and renters navigate available federal and state housing assistance while providing independent advice on foreclosure prevention, credit issues, debt management, and long-term financial health. The work of housing counselors also helps address systemic inequalities related to housing in an effort to close the housing security gap.
Up to 40 million U.S. renters impacted by the pandemic-related economic downturn could face eviction, according to research from the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. And multiple studies have shown that tenants with legal representation are significantly more likely to avoid an eviction judgment and remain in their home. In response, Wells Fargo is continuing to support legal assistance organizations that work to keep people and families housed through services and advocacy efforts.
The grants will enable legal assistance organizations to provide free or low-cost legal counseling and representation to people at risk of eviction, advance advocacy work, and identify solutions to mitigate evictions across the U.S., including for Black, Indigenous and People of Color disproportionately affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. While the funds are being provided nationwide, The Legal Aid Society in New York is one of the grantees.
"New York is still facing a surging pandemic coupled with looming mass evictions,” said Edward Josephson, Supervising Attorney at The Legal Aid Society in New York City. “Rental relief is desperately needed, especially with the eviction moratorium in limbo, and many need assistance from organizations like ours to secure protection from eviction, as well as the promise of monetary relief. With Wells Fargo's commitment, we've been able to extend outreach and guide our clients through processes that keep them safe and in their homes."