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Tens of thousands of Oregon households face eviction, unless state lawmakers extend moratorium

Eviction moratoriums put in place early in the pandemic by the state of Oregon and the CDC are set to run out on Jan. 1.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Tens of thousands of Oregon households will be looking to state lawmakers during next week’s special session in Salem to save them from being evicted with the new year, according to one estimate.

“It’s between, I believe, 25,000 to 57,000 households may be at risk of eviction on Jan. 1,” said Alison McIntosh, policy and communications director at Neighborhood Partnerships.

In an interview Wednesday, McIntosh said, amid economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, surveys show renters are making “extreme sacrifices” to pay rent on time.

“Folks have been putting basic needs and rent on credit cards. They have been borrowing money from family or friends. They are selling assets like their car,” she said. “They're spending down emergency and retirement savings, all to stay in their home.”

The stories about those sacrifices come as eviction moratoriums put in place early in the pandemic by the state of Oregon and the CDC are set to run out on Jan. 1. 

If experts’ worst fears come to fruition, the cascade of evictions could more than quadruple Oregon’s homeless population. The last federal count, conducted in January of 2019, showed Oregon had an estimated 15,876 people experiencing homelessness on any given day.

RELATED: Wave of evictions feared as moratorium set to expire at the end of the year

“We're a few weeks away from, you know, probably one of the worst realities for our lifetime,” said Ryan Bowser.

Bowser, his girlfriend Taylor and her daughter are on the brink of being evicted from their two-bedroom apartment in Corvallis.

The couple both clean classrooms at Oregon State University, but off and on throughout the pandemic, child care needs have forced at least one of them to stay home and forfeit a paycheck.

“We pay about $1,165 a month… but right now we're three months’ rent back,” he said. “I mean, Taylor's cried about it numerous times.”

Bowser said he also recently learned his girlfriend is pregnant.

“We're kind of still processing that, while still trying to process the possibility of being homeless in a couple of weeks,”  he said. “There's an underrepresented amount of people I think, who kind of slipped through the cracks in the pandemic so far… who didn't lose all of their income, but they lost enough of it to where making ends meet was impossible.”

Working as a seamstress to support her family of six, Melesia Torres has more protections than Bowser by virtue of where she lives: a trailer in Northeast Portland’s Cully Neighborhood.

On Thursday morning, Multnomah County commissioners voted to extend their eviction moratorium to July 2021, a move that gives renters until January 2022 to catch up on back rent.

Torres has also been able to get some help covering rent through COVID-19 relief funding, dispensed by the county, but the aid is shaky. She argues Oregon's politicians don't realize people of color disproportionately live on the brink of homelessness.

“This community is … very low income, very low income,” she said, pausing to let her daughter translate from Spanish to English during the interview. “The politicians ... they need to help us, need to see my way of life.”

Those living outside of Multnomah County will be watching state lawmakers closely next week.

On the table of bills to consider is a six-month extension on the state’s eviction moratorium, as well as a push to establish a program to pay landlords 80% of the rent and payments due to them, as long as they then forgive the debts of tenants impacted by the pandemic.

Bethany Anderson will be watching closely.

“I feel like they're hopefully not going to just give us all the boot,” she said via Zoom Wednesday, while holding her 10-month-old son Kane. “I don't take for granted the fact that Jan. 1, [the landlord] can put an eviction notice my door if I don't have that rent that's past due paid.”

Anderson lost a job in the beginning of the pandemic and hasn't been able to get work since. Her husband works in tech, and the family loves their two-bedroom apartment in Polk County.

“[The apartment] is really nice. [It’s] $1,000 a month, and then we're currently only behind $4,000,” she said, adding she feels like her family is lucky. “There's people who are behind so much in rent that you look at it and that's not even a mountain. That's like 20 mountains. How are you going to climb that?”

Anderson added, if the special session comes and goes without an extension on the eviction moratorium, she and her husband have decided they’ll physically refuse to leave.

“I'm not going to go in the middle of winter and sleep in my car with a baby, and I figure that if there's this many people that are struggling and there's this many people that face this… I don't feel like they're going to send that many sheriffs out one by one, put everybody out of their door,” she said. “I mean, there's got to be human compassion somewhere … because right now, I don’t know. You need something, and not a lot of us have money anymore.”

RELATED: Oregon lawmakers hear proposal to extend eviction moratorium for renters

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