Nonprofit Sees Increase In Requests For Assistance

WEST OCEAN CITY – An overwhelming demand in eviction prevention assistance has forced a local nonprofit to close its program to new clients.

In recent weeks, Diakonia took to social media to announce it will not reopen its eviction prevention assistance program to new clients. Since grant funding for the program began in October, the nonprofit has expended roughly $50,000, or 50%, of its allotment.

“The current state of potential evictions is currently through the roof, largely because many of the COVID subsidies provided are coming to an end,” said Ken Argot, Diakonia’s executive director. “Meanwhile inflation rates of maintaining housing has not kept up with income, especially those on fixed incomes.”

Argot explained the nonprofit’s eviction assistance program is funded through the state-led Homeless Solutions Program, for which the grant year begins on Oct. 1. In less than two months, Diakonia has utilized 50% of its budget to save families from eviction. Program participants include 25 households and 83 individuals across Worcester and Wicomico counties.

“While we could keep accepting applications, helping people with only one month, we would run out of funds before the end of January, leaving another nine months until the new funding cycle,” Argot said. “Unlike some emergency eviction prevention programs, we are less inclined to help someone for only 30 days and drop them. Studies will show, they will probably need help the next month as well.”

Instead, Diakonia has made the decision to close its program to new clients.

“Rather, we would like to prioritize those who have major barriers to re-housing and work with them over the course of the entire year …,” he said. “For that we need to hold back funding so that we don’t run out of funding too quickly and have to drop our clients in the middle of a crisis.”

He added, “For that reason, we have already accepted clients for whom we have made a commitment, and until we have a better idea how much funding it will take to get them through the year, we can’t reopen for other new clients.”

Argot noted, however, that things could change as the weeks progress.

“It is possible, however, that some show no progress on goals, in which case we might have to close our support for one, while seeking a new family to help,” he said. “We posted [on social media] because we were being swarmed with calls and wanted the public to know that at this time we could not provide that service.”

Argot, however, said private donations can be used to support families in need.

“General donations can and many times are used to help some families …,” he said. “We try to reach 50% of funding coming from non-grant income. Many times grants are very specific to what they will cover and our private donations often fill those necessary gaps.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.