JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Since Florida's eviction moratorium expired on Oct. 1, 716 eviction cases have been filed in Duval County.
So far in all of 2020, 5,649 eviction cases have been filed in Duval County.
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid is helping people fight their evictions. Coordinator of the Eviction Defense Self Help Project Suzanne Garrow says they’ve seen a steep increase of eviction cases filed across northeast Florida.
A tenant rights attorney says eviction filings are not easy to fight because the tenant simply hasn’t paid rent, but the difference is this year many people have a real defense against the eviction filing: COVID-19.
Garrow says the evictions are affecting more low income communities due to COVID-19 and the financial struggles it has caused. Not only do they not want to see an influx of families on the streets, but Garrow explains that studies show having a home is a way to break that cycle of poverty.
“Preventing eviction is so important because otherwise it destabilizes communities," Garrow says. "It makes it more difficult for children to learn in school, it causes health problems and even worse health problems in the pandemic so it’s an important, really important thing to preserve.”
JALA helps people in Duval, St. Johns, and Clay counties. She says they are doing a one-on-one clinic every Wednesday to help prepare their defense. To get involved, give them a call.
Garrow doesn't think this problem is going away anytime soon.
"We’ve seen a couple waves. We saw people in the beginning who lost their jobs and then were sort of immediately behind," Garrow said. "Now we are seeing more people who had some safety net or didn’t yet lose their jobs but as it continues, people get further behind or new people lose their jobs it will just continue to grow until there is an economic change.”
She say the goal is to keep people in housing right now, but stopping an eviction does not stop the bills from piling up.
While Garrow says they are dealing with more eviction cases, data from the Duval County Clerk of Courts shows August to October of 2019 had more filings than August to October of 2020.