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Frankfort mother faces eviction despite submitting 3 moratorium declarations

FRANKFORT, Ind. (WISH) — Christina Everman felt torn between family and finances when the coronavirus pandemic upended her life.

The single mother of three stopped working as a delivery driver so she could supervise e-learning and watch her children – all under the age of 12 – after their schools closed in March.

When Congress failed to reach an agreement to extend enhanced unemployment benefits, Everman said she was forced to choose between buying back-to-school supplies and paying bills. She was collecting only $149 a week, before taxes, without the weekly $600 payments. She chose school supplies.

By August, Everman was behind on rent. She unsuccessfully sought rental assistance from the state (her landlord refused to participate), township trustees (she was ineligible because of a filing fee on her account), the Salvation Army (they couldn’t help because she wasn’t more than a month behind on rent at the time) and other organizations.

She hid her tears from her children when she found an eviction notice on their door in late September.

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“I didn’t know how to tell them,” Everman said. “I had done everything I was supposed to do and thought that I was going to have some protection.”

Everman is among a growing number of Hoosier renters facing eviction despite meeting the requirements of the eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The federal order – issued to slow the spread of coronavirus – halts nonpayment eviction proceedings against covered tenants until the end of the year. But the moratorium does not explicitly protect people from lease expiration or eviction unrelated to lease violations, making it possible for landlords to find other methods of removing tenants unable to afford rent.

The National Housing Law Project, a nonprofit national housing and legal advocacy center, said tenant advocates “should argue the order prohibits any eviction” that doesn’t fall into the CDC’s five exempted categories: engaging in criminal activity on premises, threatening the health or safety other residents, violating building codes or health regulations, damaging property and violating contractual obligations other than timely payment.

“The effect is going to be the same [no matter what somebody is evicted for],” said Andrew Bradley, policy director at Prosperity Indiana. “If people are put out on the streets, then that still increases the threat to public health if they’re not able to be stably housed.”

A University of Pennsylvania study found every 70 households evicted during the pandemic corresponded with at least one additional coronavirus death. Researchers leading the epidemiological simulation used a mathematical model of COVID-19 spread to predict the potential impact of evictions on public health. Even a “low eviction rate scenario” resulted in a “relatively large death rate attributable to evictions,” according to the study.

An estimated 248,000 to 313,000 Hoosier households are at risk of eviction.

“That means that there could easily be 3,500 to 4,500 additional deaths in Indiana unless we successfully prevent those evictions,” said Bradley.

Everman fought to keep her family housed. She emailed a signed declaration to property management stating she qualified for protection under the CDC’s order. Her landlord filed for eviction anyway. 

She immediately sent the sworn statement again via priority mail with signature confirmation. A property manager signed for it but didn’t acknowledge receiving it when Everman asked. She sent a third declaration to her landlord’s attorney but never got a signature confirmation receipt.

Everman’s eviction hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7. If the judge rules against her, she and her children will likely stay with relatives in the type of congregate housing arrangement the CDC sought to prevent amid the pandemic.

“It feels like the protection’s not actually there,” Everman said of the federal order. “I’m sure I’m not the only person going through this.”

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