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Study highlights homelessness, eviction rate in Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — “Sheriff’s office! Anybody home?” yelled a sheriff’s deputy with his hand over his gun, his holster unsnapped.

Deputy John Vaughan opened the door of an apartment that was empty enough to make his voice echo. A red scooter and an old crib were the only items left.

“Cleared!” he yelled after inspecting each room. The apartment complex’s custodian, who had been waiting outside, was allowed in and quickly began to change the locks.

The same scene was witnessed 14 times by a Washington Post reporter one November morning in this state capital, which according to data collected at Princeton’s Eviction Lab has the second-highest eviction rate in the country.

The Richmond City Sheriff’s Office had a light load that day: 55 eviction orders. On more typical days, the number jumps to 70 or higher, officials said.


In Southwood, a neighborhood where rents range from $500 to $800 a month for two-bedroom townhouses and apartments, advocates say it has become common to see people cram their belongings into plastic bags, place them in car trunks and leave their apartments before a handful of deputies come to knock on their door.

For many, these scenes are not new.

Advocates and experts say the eviction tradition in Richmond and other Southern cities and towns dates back generations, and has affected black communities the most.

“There has been a housing crisis, an eviction crisis and a displacement crisis for several decades,” said Benjamin Teresa, co-director of the RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has studied housing issues in Virginia and other Southern states.

He points to laws favoring landlords like “pay or quit,” which allows property owners to launch eviction proceedings five days after the payment grace period (other states provide up to 30 days).

TENANTS’ RIGHTS

Teresa said minority communities in Richmond are subjected to predatory lending and discrimination, especially renters who use federal housing vouchers. Landlords can refuse to accept vouchers, and he said landlords who do accept them often steer tenants to housing in poor neighborhoods.

With a new Democratic majority in the General Assembly, advocates were hoping for ambitious housing reform across the commonwealth this year. More than a dozen measures were introduced to tackle housing issues, but none “explicitly deals with eviction,” said Christie Marra, a family and housing attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center.


She said most of the focus has been on giving tenants tools to ensure their housing is safe and habitable, cap fees assessed after late rent payments and force landlords to make or pay for repairs.

A measure requiring landlords to provide tenants a list of their rights and responsibilities at the beginning of the lease term was approved by the Senate with bipartisan support and is awaiting action by the House.

The Senate unanimously approved and sent to the House a bill that would give tenants the right to make essential repairs and deduct them from their rent if a landlord refuses or does not take care of the issue within 14 days.

Another bill, proposed by state Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) would allow judges to expunge eviction records from cases that were dismissed or withdrawn by the landlord. Such records can make it hard for renters to secure future leases. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, and it is expected to be heard in the House this week.

And despite opposition, the House approved 61 to 37 a bill that bans landlords from refusing housing vouchers as payment. The measure was referred to the Senate.

Marra said the legislation is leading the state in the right direction.

“I think we all needed time to see what could get done in some of these other areas,” she said. “And then regroup once this session ends to try to really focus on gathering together groups of tenants in the high-evicting areas to hear directly from them.”

PHONE CALLS AND MOTELS

A few days after Vaughan searched the apartment with the red scooter, Laurette Turner, 64, sat at the end of a hotel bed on the other side of Richmond. She was talking to yet another employee of a housing organization that aims to help evictees.

She was evicted in June, along with her daughter and three grandchildren, from a government-subsidized apartment complex where she had lived for more than eight years, mostly on disability payments and government assistance.

Turner said the property managers at the Townes at River South apartments lost two of her rent payments; staff at the complex said they were unable to comment on her case.

For more than six months, Turner sought help from nonprofits and government organizations in searching for permanent housing. Having an eviction on her rental record meant many landlords turned her away, she said, so cheap hotels were often the only option.

She compared rates, called reception desks, negotiated with case managers for enough funding to stay for a few days or a week. Each time she needed to leave, she moved her family’s belongings in plastic bags.

“Everybody thinks the homeless are the people on the street or the people walking up and down the street for money. Or people sleeping in their cars,” she said in her room at the Quality Inn in Northside Richmond. “But it’s more than that.”

Before Christmas, she found a landlord willing to rent the family a townhouse for six months. “It has three bedrooms, one bath, living room, dining area and kitchen with washer and dryer hookups,” she texted a Washington Post reporter. “Thank God for his grace and mercy.”

Turner has been trying to get the landlord to install a washer and dryer, and she hopes to extend the lease until the end of 2020. She also wants to pay a credit repair service she saw on television, which she believes could get the eviction erased from her record.

“I’m going to find out,” she said on Feb. 11.

DOING HIS JOB

Those carrying out removals were unaware that an eviction epidemic was plaguing their hometown until Princeton’s Eviction Lab study, which found that the 10 U.S. cities with the highest eviction rates included five in Virginia: Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake.

“It was an eye-opener,” said Civil Process Sgt. Larry Trotter. “We have five deputies and we’re at number two. It’s not a number you celebrate. Nobody was celebrating.”

The attention, he says, prompted roundtable discussions with Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and local officials, who sought his input on how to decrease the eviction rate. He said he believes, however, that those efforts were flawed.

“The ones at the roundtables should have been the judges, and the ones who make these laws,” Trotter said. “Everybody wants a quick fix. There is no quick fix to it.”

Trotter, who is black and grew up in Petersburg, about 20 miles south of Richmond, said he became a deputy sheriff because he wanted to help society and give law enforcement a positive light in his community.

“I wanted to be the person that people can say, ‘Okay, he has a badge, but he’s still him. He has a badge, but he’s not out here abusing me,’ ” he said. “Because that’s what I seen coming up.”

Years ago, Trotter was on the other side of an eviction order. He was unemployed and recovering from knee surgery when he was put out of his apartment.

He lived in his car and sent his family to stay with his in-laws.

He draws from his personal story to try to help those he evicts, telling them that instead of putting blame on others, they should instead learn what options are available and ask, “Where do I go from here?”

He carries pamphlets in his shirt pocket with information on legal and housing services, and even talks to evictees about openings at the sheriff’s office.

“I can do no more, no less with the power that I’m given,” Trotter said. “You don’t want to put people out, but you have to because you have to do your job.”

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California’s vague new financial regulation law – Orange County Register

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Assembly Bill 1864 didn’t get much media or public attention as it zipped through both houses of the Legislature on the last day of the 2020 session.

Superficially, it appeared merely to reconfigure the state’s financial regulatory agencies into a new entity called the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.

However, those in California’s vast financial industry were paying lots of attention because the bill creates an entirely new regulatory regime with broad powers, including fines of up to $1 million a day, to police financial players that hitherto have had little oversight.

The official rationale for the legislation is that President Donald Trump’s administration neutered the federal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, so the state must step in with an equivalent to guard against predatory financial practices that harm consumers.

The new California Consumer Financial Protection Law gives the reconstituted agency authority to go after “abusive practices” whose definition in the law is fairly vague. Thus, the agency itself will define the term as it also decides which businesses will face its scrutiny.

It appears that the new law will affect firms involved in debt settlement, credit repair, check cashing, rent-to-own contracts, payday lending, student loan servicing and financing for retail sales. However, its primary target seems to be financial services offered by non-banks, particularly what are called “fintech companies” that offer bank-like services via the Internet without maintaining physical offices.

Fintechs, many of them based in the San Francisco Bay Area, have blossomed in recent years as part of the digital economy, competing with traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Their disruptive nature is not unlike the challenge that technology-based ride services such as Uber and Lyft pose to taxicabs and buses.

Late-blooming changes in AB 1864 exempted traditional financial firms that are already regulated, such as banks and credit unions, from the new consumer protection law, leading some analysts to conclude that its unstated aim is to help them stave off competition from new kids on the financial block.

The vagueness of the new law was encapsulated in what Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a signing ceremony. The new law and the new department, he said, will “create conditions for innovation to flourish in a way where we can steward that and we can just work against its excesses. So we support risk-taking, not recklessness.”

Newsom also signed two other financial protection measures, one that requires debt collectors to be licensed beginning in 2022 and the other creating a Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights.

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Erie Homecoming 2020 to take place virtually

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Erie Homecoming 2020: “Erie’s Economic Evolution” is happening this week.

Erie Homecoming is an event that shares the vision of where we are going as a business community and the specific projects that will be taking us there.

Yoselin Person was live outside of the Erie Regional Chamber to tell us more about what’s taking place at this year’s homecoming.

Get your favorite hot drink because Erie Homecoming is happening virtually. 

Rooms full of people just aren’t happening in the midst of a pandemic, so Erie Homecoming is an event that will inspire you from comfort of your home or office.

The purpose of homecoming is to give attendees the opportunity to learn how they can invest in the Erie community.

During this two day event, you will be able to learn how you can invest the time, talent and treasure in creating a more diverse and prosperous Erie community.

Erie’s Black Wall Street will be featured this year. It’s a nonprofit organization that’s known for improving black business.

“So, having it geared towards helping black businesses expand and spread their wings, I think that’s amazing,” said Alexandria Ellis, owner, She Vintage.

Ellis began her business six months ago. She says Erie Black Wall Street is a safe space where black entrepreneurs can connect and collaborate with others.

The organization also helps others with credit repair.

“They’ve helped me by connecting me with resources if someone is looking for a nail tech or a boutique that’s black owned, they have connected customers of their clients to me through their organization,” said Ellis.

Speakers from the black owned organization will speak about creating regional equity.

There will also be a discussion about Flagship Opportunity Zones and what it means in terms of tax and other investment incentives.

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RiverBend Growth Association announces new members | Business

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RiverBend Growth Association encourages use of face coverings

The RiverBend Growth Association announces its new members:

5 Diamond Campground

Brian Campbell and Matt Diamond

2 Fun Lane

Hartford IL 62048

(618) 254-1180

facebook.com/5-Diamond-Campground-103976501423687

Alton Pride Inc.

Jason Heeren, director of sponsorship

P.O. Box 662

Alton IL 62002

(618) 204-7420

https://altonpride.com

Alton Pride is a charitable and educational organization established to bring awareness, understanding, and advocacy to the LGBTQ+ community with an emphasis on the specific needs of the youth within the community. We are setting ourselves apart from other Pride organizations by focusing on giving back to our community, rather than hosting just a parade or festival. We will be depositing a majority of event proceeds into a structured account funding our goal to develop a local teen suicide prevention line and a teen resource center to help youth in need.

 

Imo’s Pizza – Bethalto

Lori Bromberg, president/treasurer and managing partner

515 N. Bellwood

Bethalto IL 62010

(618) 258-0011

www.imospizza.com

Bethalto Imo’s is owned by Charles and Barbara (Babs) Pelan. Barbara was a nurse and Charles has had a varied career but has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He and Babs purchased the Bethalto Imo’s in 2013 and seeing the success of the brand and the store in Bethalto were anxious to purchase the Edwardsville Imo’s franchise in 2014.

Their daughter, Lori Bromberg, is the managing partner and provides leadership and daily oversight to the business. Lori has a bachelor of science degree in management and has 31-plus years in corporate leadership roles, including customer experience, supply chain, distribution strategy, change management, hr/talent management, training and safety. Lori also is a certified mentor for SCORE providing mentoring and coaching to small businesses.

While it is our goal to have a financially successful business, we believe the cornerstones to achieving success is ensuring a superior product and customer experience, investment in our employees, positive contributions to our community, while demonstrating a strong commitment to safety. We pride ourselves on our commitment to Imo’s corporate mission, “To maintain the Imo’s tradition of uncompromising quality, pride in Imo’s products, and passion for success and for customers to experience a genuine, original St. Louis pizza of the highest quality, served in a pleasant atmosphere or at home, so that they too will have reason to say: “Imo’s is my favorite pizza.”

If you frequent our Bethalto location, we will be moving down the street a little over a mile, still on 111, within the next month or so.  We will continue to have delivery and pick-up as well as offer new patio seating.

 

Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation Inc.

Mark Kratschmer, president

5800 Godfrey Road, ER 0210

Godfrey IL 62035

(618) 468-2010

www.lc.edu/About_the_Foundation/

The Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation is a nonprofit corporation organized under the laws of the state of Illinois. The foundation supports Lewis and Clark Community College and its students through scholarships, awards, and other assistance.

Piasa Body Art

Cody Hinkle, owner

560 E. Broadway

Alton IL 62002

(618) 462-1720

Alton’s best body art shop, offering tattoos and piercing services. Now with The Salon for all your hair care and barbering needs!

Prosper Credit Consultants

Jerheart Huntley, owner

525 Wyss Ave.

Alton IL 62002

(877) 503-7465

prospercreditconsultants.com

Credit repair that works! Prosper Credit Consultants uses the most innovative processes to make sure our clients are educated on how credit repair works! Prosper Credit Consultants is dedicated to educating our clients on how to get and keep good credit! We have become a one-stop shop for all things from credit repair, building credit for beginners, trade lines, putting our clients in position to purchase that new car, and home they want. Give us a call (877) 503-7465 or set up a free credit consultation.

The RiverBend Growth Association is the chamber of commerce and economic development organization for the 12 communities known as the Riverbend.  For more information about the Growth Association, visit www.growthassociation.com or call (618) 467-2280.

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