Bedford County groups helps families facing COVID-19 evictions

Posted at 8:49 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 23:55:23-04

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Tennesseans are three months into the Coronavirus pandemic and many people are still struggling to get by.

Without a steady paycheck, it’s hard for some to pay rent and they’re facing evictions.

It’s an issue that got the attention of the local advocacy group, the Bedford County Listening Project.

On Wednesday, the group held a vigil outside the Bedford County Courthouse in Shelbyville for those facing evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been on the phone with people crying because they don’t know where their kids are going to go, they don’t know where they’re going to sleep the next night,” Stephanie Isaacs.

Isaacs says more than 60 families face evictions after landlords filed the paperwork with the court between March 1 and June 1st.

“As far as the project goes, we’re going to keep fighting for people,we’re going to keep fighting for our neighbors with our neighbors, and we’re not letting people take advantage of others anymore,” said Isaacs.

Isaacs says the group is designed to remind and help renters and tenants of their rights.

The Tennessee Supreme Court postponed evictions during the start of the pandemic. But that was lifted June first.

“Then COVID-19 hit and phone calls were pouring in about landlords trying to do self- help evictions when the courts were closed; turning off power, just all the bad things,” Isaacs said.

The group has started an online fundraiser in hopes it will provide some relief for the many families facing homelessness.

“We started a GoFundMe. We know we can’t help 62 people because we’re renters helping renters, helping our community. But we helped four families so far,” Isaacs said.

The group is calling on local elected officials to step in but the county mayor tells us his hands are tied.

In a statement, Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham said:

“Tennessee law doesn’t give local county governments any authority at all in landlord-tenant disputes, as we’ve explained to Bedford County Listening Project. When individual families have contacted us, we’ve attempted to put them in touch with agencies that can provide assistance. We cannot interfere with judicial proceedings, and evictions are handled through the court system. We continue to monitor the situation.

“Right now, our responsibilities under state law have us focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and on protecting and developing the local economy. We are deeply concerned about each individual Bedford County citizen, but our responsibility right now is to do the best job we can on the duties that Tennessee’s constitution assigns to county governments. We urge all Bedford County citizens to treat each other with compassion and consideration during this difficult time.”

Isaacs says that’s not enough; she's asking Graham to use his political power to at least start a conversation.

“As far as the project goes, we’re going to keep fighting for people, we’re going to keep fighting for our neighbors with our neighbors; and we’re not letting people take advantage of others anymore,” she said.

For rental assistance resources the Bedford County Listening Project says there are only two local programs to help; The Good Samaritans Association and the South Central Human Resource Agency.