PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria residents and advocates are pushing for a call to action to make sure dozens of tenants will not end up homeless.
They’re also speaking out against property management Darwin Homes after, on behalf of company SFR3, it issued dozens of households a notice to vacate right before the holidays.
As the clock ticks down until the extended move-out-date on January 31, many residents are still asking themselves the same tough questions.
“Where are we going to go, what are we going to do,” Rebecca Billings said.
Billings is one of the many residents in the city’s East Bluff community whose home is managed by Darwin Homes. She’s also among the many who were notified just before the holidays that she had to vacate her home by the end of December.
She said she was notified in November through e-mail.
“I don’t know how we’re going to do it, I mean we need more time to move period,” Billings said. “I work full-time and my husbands on disability, he just had brain surgery.”
Sources tell WMBD that Darwin Homes was supposed to issue notices to vacate to those on a month-to-month lease as early as last Fall. But for some reason, they delayed it until around November.
Sources said once SFR3 was made aware of the situation they agreed to extend the move-out date until the end of January after negotiations with the city.
But many are saying that’s still not enough time, especially in the winter and with the price of rent increasing.
“I would just like to have more time to move and have them give consideration that we’re people and that we need time to move,” Billings said.
City leaders said during the process, they reached out to impacted residents to offer resources to help them relocate.
On Thursday, a group of more than two dozen people came to the East Bluff Community Center to discuss Darwin Homes, SFR3, tenants’ current situation, and possible solutions.
These who came out included representatives from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Peoria Landlord Accountability Project, the ACLU Peoria Chapter, and community members.
“I would love for Mayor Dr. Rita Ali to make an emergency declaration at least until April 1 for a housing moratorium,” Kristen Meierkord, president of ACLU Peoria Chapter, said. “The city has so many grant and funds coming in that I think they could work with the [local] landlords so they’re not losing money.”
“It’s a humanitarian issue to me,” Meierkord said. “I think that Peoria has been defined in so many negative [ways] in the past few years, we can do something positive for once.”
She also said she’d like to see out-of-state corporate landlords charged a deposit that will go toward helping tenants find affordable housing if they were given a sudden notice to vacate.
Another suggestion presented would be to give tenants extra time to vacate depending on how long they’ve lived at their home.
Other parts of Thursday’s meeting touched on the gentrification of neighborhoods, corporate landlords buying up homes, and where are residents supposed to go if they can’t find a place to move.
Some said space in shelters is limited if not already at capacity.
“We don’t need to add to our houseless population right now,” Kristen Meierkord, president of ACLU Peoria Chapter, said. “We are already at crisis level.”
Tim Riggenbach, Third District City Councilman, said the meeting helped open his eyes to possible solutions that can help keep people from ending up in the streets.
“I think there needs to be a way to protect people who are on those month-to month leases,” Riggenbach, said. “I definitely think there are some good ideas out there that I hadn’t thought of beforehand.”
“I will be talking with our city attorney tomorrow [Friday] and throw in some of these things and see what actually can stick,” Riggenbach said.
He said said there are housing units available in the city for people who are having housing issues.
Riggenbach said he’s encouraging those in need to reach out to the city’s community development department for additional assistance.