New program launched to avoid ‘eviction tsunami’

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton has teamed up with social service and legal service organizations on a new program to provide rental, mortgage, utility and legal assistance for people struggling to pay their bills because of the pandemic.

The eviction-prevention initiative is called Operation Ivo, after St. Ivo, the patron saint of lawyers and an advocate of the poor. The program already has been launched in Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties in partnership with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) and South Jersey Legal Services, which provides free legal services in these three counties. Efforts are under way to partner with the legal service organization in Mercer County and SVdP in order to offer Operation Ivo to Mercer residents.

Brenda L. Rascher, executive director of the Diocese of Trenton’s Office of Catholic Social Services, spearheaded the partnership.

Addressing legal needs key

“With reports of 80,000 evictions pending in courts statewide, we have to work together to meet the challenges ahead,” Rascher said. “Having been both a social worker and a legal service attorney, I can attest to the importance of developing a plan that addresses both social service and legal service needs, especially when a court case has been filed. That’s the goal of Operation Ivo – to pull together tenant families, social service providers and legal service attorneys as partners working jointly to develop plans to save tenants’ homes and increase the chances of success.”

At Catholic Charities, Parish Services Supervisor Lisha Loo-Morgan oversees the work, which is funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act through June. The assistance is being offered in parishes – but is available to anyone of any faith in the community who needs it, especially those who already have an eviction action filed in court.

“So many people have lost their jobs or had pay cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic that we expect a tsunami of evictions,” Loo-Morgan (pictured, right) said.

“We want to do everything we can do to help people stay housed,” agreed Arnold Valentin, service area director of Catholic Charities’ Community Services, where Operation Ivo and Parish Services are based. “Everyone deserves a safe, comfortable home, and having that foundation is critically important for people to recover from job loss, depression or any other hardships they may be experiencing.”

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FOR INFORMATION OR TO GET HELP, call Parish Services Supervisor Lisha Loo-Morgan at (609) 213-0576 or lloo-morgan@cctrenton.org. For information about Catholic Charities, contact Dana DiFilippo, communications, at ddifilippo@cctrenton.org or (215) 756-6277.

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