'Nowhere To Go': Some Missouri Renters Still Being Evicted During Pandemic

"It makes me feel really alone in this world," said Christine Rudolph, a few days after being evicted from her home in Jefferson City. Missouri tenants facing eviction are unsure how to follow a stay-at-home order when they no longer have a home to go to.

Christine Rudolph woke up last week to an eviction notice taped on her front door.

Three days later, she and her 15-year-old daughter were forced to leave their home in Jefferson County.

"I can't even believe it, especially when we're on a stay-at-home order," Rudolph said, her voice breaking. "I'm just beside myself."

St. Louis has temporarily halted evictions during the coronavirus outbreak, but in other parts of Missouri, landlords are still allowed to evict their tenants. Despite statewide orders to remain at home, some recently evicted residents are now living on the streets or in their cars, unsure how to stay safe in the midst of a pandemic.

The CARES Act, signed into federal law on March 27, prevents landlords from filing new eviction actions — but only for specific types of housing, such as homes with federally backed mortgages or public housing.

Some states, like Kansas, have instituted a statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus outbreak. Housing advocates have called on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to take similar action, arguing housing-insecure and homeless people are at a higher risk of becoming infected.

During a press conference Wednesday, Parson said his office has been in communication with Missouri Supreme Court officials, who said eviction notices are not a priority in the courts at this time.

"My understanding is the courts are not really taking any action at this point on [eviction notices]," Parson said. "We'll evaluate that every day if it comes to be a problem."

The Missouri Supreme Court has suspended most in-person proceedings due to the coronavirus outbreak through May 1, including eviction lawsuit hearings.

Many Missouri tenants facing eviction have had their hearing dates postponed while the courts are closed, but housing advocates say that's not enough time for tenants to recover financially — particularly those who have lost their jobs.

Victoria Altic, a single mother of two who lives in Springfield, Missouri, was laid off from her job as a cook last month.

"I honestly don't know what I'm going to do," Altic said Wednesday during a virtual rally organized by the advocacy group KC Tenants. "I got my April rent paid to my landlord, but that left me broke. Courts aren't moving forward with evictions right now, but what about two months from now?"

Some evictions still moving forward

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced a moratorium on evictions in the city until further notice to "ensure individuals can maintain access to housing" during the outbreak. Eviction proceedings are also on hold in Jackson County, after a circuit court judge halted the removal of tenants from their homes.

But elsewhere, Missouri renters are being evicted from their homes, said Lee Camp, an attorney with ArchCity Defenders. In particular, tenants who had hearings before the courts suspended in-person proceedings can still be evicted.

"We are getting calls from individuals outside the St. Louis area that are literally facing physical evictions from their homes right now with no additional protections, while at the same time being ordered by the state to stay in their homes," Camp said.

Renters who are unemployed are in an especially precarious position, Camp added.

Christine Rudolph, who lost her job as a bookkeeper several months ago, said she was offered a new job as an accounting associate — but then, the company informed her that it had instituted a hiring freeze during the outbreak.

Rudolph isn't sure when, or if, she'll be able to start work. For now, she's living in her Jeep, which is packed with belongings.

"It makes me feel really alone in this world," Rudolph said. "I have nowhere to go."