‘I’m just so glad to be here:’ Houstonians desperate for rental help find it in Precinct 1

HOUSTON – Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen and other local officials unveiled an Eviction Assistance Program Wednesday to help those facing eviction due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The program is designed to provide resources to help people facing eviction navigate challenges.

Some in the Precinct 1 Constable’s Office wondered if anyone would show up on Wednesday for the event, but cars lined up before dawn.

“What I’ve seen is people showing up stressed, and leaving relieved,” Rosen said.

A CNN report in September that went viral showing Precinct 1 deputy constable’s evicting a family prompted the office to create a GoFundMe account to help those facing evictions during the pandemic.

The nearly $250,000 raised will fund the new program, which provides free legal help and other services from community partners for tenants and landlords.

“I’ve never been in a situation like this before in my life,” David Butler said.

After nearly four decades driving taxis in Houston, Butler lost his job earlier this year when his health began to deteriorate. He could no longer afford to pay rent.

“He was our first phone call, before we developed the program, and he helped us develop it,” one deputy said.

The office has partnered with South Texas College of Law Houston and the Eviction Defense Coalition to offer free legal advice to tenants and landlords, including helping tenants fill out paperwork to qualify for the temporary eviction stop ordered by the Centers for Disease Control.

On Wednesday, tenants and landlords lined up behind four pop-up tents. Each car was seen for about 20 minutes, and walk-ups were also welcome, all on a first-come, first-served basis.

You can reach South Texas College of Law Houston at 346-250-1069 and Eviction Defense Coalition at 713-982-7340. Precinct 1 will plan other events similar to Wednesdays, but in other parts of town.

About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.