Columbus Foundation 'Fellow' Studies Eviction Issue

Caroline Corona is a Columbus Foundation 'Fellow' at Homeport.

Caroline Corona is a Columbus Foundation 'Fellow' at Homeport.

Homeport chosen for summer Learning Opportunity

(Columbus Foundation “Fellow” Caroline Corona has been assigned to Homeport for 10 weeks to learn about the eviction process and the impact of the Foundation’s Gifts of Kindness program. Caroline blogs weekly for the Foundation about her experiences. Here are some highlights.)

By Caroline Corona

My first week at Homeport I attended a fundraiser featuring Matthew Desmond, author of the acclaimed book “Evicted.” I had been reading Desmond’s book, and his speech certainly gave further power to a story of devastation. Yet reading his words and hearing his perspectives paled to my second week on the job -- sitting in on eviction hearings in Downtown Columbus.

Each case was roughly 5 minutes or less, but in those few short minutes people lost their homes. I have read statistics on how many people are evicted each year or how many children live without a permanent home, but it’s hard to truly grasp those figures until seeing an exhausted mother in the court room with her three kids awaiting a decision that may ultimately leave them homeless.

As my research continues I’m learning more and more about these situations -- and the work being done collectively in this community to try to thwart eviction and its compounding effects on families who are already struggling. Homeport, through the Columbus Foundation and its Gifts of Kindness program, has helped almost 150 families avoid eviction through one-time grants to assist with rent, utilities, car repairs or medical bills during a time of unexpected hardship.

As part of my analysis of Gifts in Kindness, I met with a property manager who manages many of Homeport’s communities. While I came to collect data, I learned much more.

Homeport's Alex Romstedt, left, and Morgen Wade, right, review Gifts of Kindness outcomes with Columbus Foundation Fellow Caroline Corona.

Homeport's Alex Romstedt, left, and Morgen Wade, right, review Gifts of Kindness outcomes with Columbus Foundation Fellow Caroline Corona.

The manager explained how the company she represents tries to not evict tenants but can be forced to for a variety of reasons such as non-payment, property damage, crime, drugs, over occupancy and health code violations. With the heightened attention on eviction, property managers can sometimes be portrayed in a negative light. But I have come to understand that eviction, and the resulting work to make an apartment ready for the next renter, is an expensive and time intensive process that managers seek to avoid whenever possible.

Homeport is interested in understanding the short and long term success of Gifts of Kindness recipients and expanding the strongest elements of the partnership to reach more residents and ensure that recipients have the ongoing support they need to remain in homes.

Preventing an eviction is merely one facet of creating stable housing, and understanding the other reasons people leave their homes is crucial to understanding how to support permanent housing.

Each day here at Homeport comes with an immense amount of new knowledge. Keeping an open mind and a listening ear is essential to learning and serving. Remembering the people behind the data I’m using will help to build a complete picture of the struggles that too many Columbus area residents face and the solutions we can put forth to address them.

Caroline Corona is entering her third year at The Ohio State University where she is a double major student in Public Affairs and City & Regional Planning. A graduate of Mason High School outside Cincinnati, Caroline is one of 17 Central Ohio college students assigned by the Foundation to local non-profits this summer. Their work is meant to be challenging and highly important to the community and each non-profit. Here are their stories. Homeport is a Columbus Foundation Top 5 Non-Profits to Watch in 2017.