Thursday, December 1 2022

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) – Some South Georgia tenants say they need immediate help or they will soon become homeless. They say Georgia’s rental assistance program isn’t working.

The South Georgia Partnership to End Homelessness works with many people to try to get them some help. Some residents told WALB they had fallen behind on their rent and utility bills and were unsure how they were going to make ends meet.

The nonprofit organization has helped people complete more than 150 applications for the Georgia Rental Assistance program. Processors reviewed and immediately approved some of their claims with pending payments. Then, not even 5 days later, they were refused.

“I contacted my landlord to see if it might be a system error. When I contacted them they also told me that the request was denied. I ended up contacting them I’ve been contacting them since Sept. 13. Literally every day. Four or five times a day,” said one Valdosta tenant.

Residents want answers from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs on these issues.(Source: WALB)

They tell WALB they don’t have contact details for their processors to call the immediate attention they need because the help they got was online.

“I’ve never been out of a job and ended up losing my job due to COVID. My job ran out of funding which ended our contract. So it’s even harder not to having a job right now. It’s very difficult,” said a tenant from Valdosta.

Dr. Mathis tells WALB that when Georgia started the program several years ago, they said it would be trial and error. But he feels nothing has improved and it’s still trial and error.

“And we encounter obstacles at every turn we make. We encounter obstacles. They think we just want the money here and the saddest thing is that the help can’t come soon enough,” said South Georgia Partnership to End Homelessness Executive Director Dr. Ronnie Mathis.

Dr. Ronnie Mathis says he appreciates the help from the town of Valdosta so far.
Dr. Ronnie Mathis says he appreciates the help from the town of Valdosta so far.(Source: WALB)

On Tuesday, WALB spoke to tenants who said their applications were denied without being reviewed.

“There’s no message from a processor that it hasn’t been opened, but she’s always denied it. How can you deny something you haven’t opened? Mathis said.

Dr. Mathis says he hosted an event in June to help residents fill out all the forms. So for the people we spoke to, he knows they have all the required documents. Yet they have always been refused.

“The papers have been completed. So I don’t understand why I was refused, and she was not helpful at all. And then she said, “Oh, you need the COVID-19 papers, and you don’t have any pay stubs,” and whatever she said I didn’t have, I had” , said a Valdosta tenant.

Almost everyone WALB spoke to on Tuesday said that if not for their landlords, they would have been evicted. A resident said she has been living in her home for 10 years, so they understand and are working with her.

“They entered my portal and saw that the paper was filled out incorrectly and I came here to fill it in but at that time it was denied. Sometimes you fall behind and just need a little help getting yourself out of the water, but I’m about to get out of my house,” said a tenant from Valdosta.

On Tuesday, WALB called Georgia’s Ministry of Community Affairs and received no response. WALB also emailed Area 11 Regional Rep Kelly Lane and received no response. WALB will continue to try to get answers for those tenants who are short on time.

This non-profit organization tells me that their volunteers go beyond the expectations of people in their community.
This non-profit organization tells me that their volunteers go beyond the expectations of people in their community.(Source: WALB)

The nonprofit is grateful for what the City of Valdosta has done, but it believes, and residents tell WALB, that they believe city and county leaders need to come forward and try to get more funding in South Georgia.


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