With the holiday season setting in, the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund (TOP Ed Fund) and Houston tenants hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic held a press conference outside Houston City Hall on Tuesday, December 15, 2020, to demand bold, swift action from local leaders to halt evictions. Strewn across the steps of City Hall were items of furniture, highlighting the urgency of the moment, as well as jarring, devastating impact of being evicted.
Houston renters will soon have virtually no protections from eviction once the CDC’s eviction order expires at the end of December, only exacerbating the city’s current housing crisis. At the press conference, local tenants shared their personal stories and dire financial situations they’re in as a result of this pandemic and the lack of action from elected leaders at all levels of government.
“A lot of people are just trying to find work where we can get it, pay bills the best we can, and the rug’s just been pulled out from under us,” said Ben Abell, a TOP member and Houston tenant who has financially struggled as a result of the pandemic. “We need action and results for regular folks. It’s just that simple.”
Since March, more than 18,000 evictions have been filed in Houston, a sizable share of those coming even after the CDC’s order to halt evictions was issued in early September. Thousands of residents are facing homelessness due to the pandemic, yet Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council have not risen to this moment to pass the substantial measures needed to keep people housed.
“There are millions of people who are going through this economic crisis and are being put on the street every single day,” said Rai Prysock, a TOP housing justice community organizer who has dealt firsthand with helping her neighbors fight off eviction earlier this year. “Mayor Turner, please tell us what you plan on doing to keep people in their homes after January 1 when the federal CDC order expires.”
Click here for photos of the press conference with furniture scattered across the steps of Houston City Hall.
Check out these short videos in English and Spanish that capture the stories of Houstonians fearful of being evicted.
Read the open letter from TOP and the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME) Coalition urging Houston leaders to halt evictions.
Texas Organizing Project Education Fund organizes Black and Latino communities in Harris, Bexar and Dallas counties. For more information, visit topedfund.org.
This press release was sent out December 16, 2020.