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Social Development and Family Services Minister Donna Cox.

Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox, is making a humanitarian call to landlords to hold their hands in evicting tenants who cannot afford to pay their rent.

This, as Cox confirmed on Monday, eviction notices were on the rise in T&T as those on the breadline, including single mothers struggle to pay rent.

In an official written response to questions sent by Guardian Media, Cox said, “Through the Ministry’s critical incidence mechanism reports are being received from members of the public, as well as media personnel on various social issues that require emergency intervention. These include reports of single mothers and their children being forced to turn to the streets following eviction and or domestic violence.”

Cox wrote, “We want to ask landlords to have some compassion for their tenants, during these unprecedented and challenging times. We must understand and appreciate that some persons have been placed in untenable situations given COVID-19 restrictions. We must be mindful of the need to come together and support each other, as we share the economic burdens at this time.”

Last Thursday an official from the Ministry said it was inundated by eviction complaints, with a significantly high incidence among single mothers.

That information was disclosed to Guardian Media when that the official was contacted to assist Guardian Media, in finding help for a young single mother of two who was about to be evicted.

The Minister’s call comes in light of there being no pandemic-related orders to protect tenants from being evicted.

According to COX, the Ministry offers a Rent Assistance Grant for up to three months. In the first instance, the grant is valued at $2,500.

But the grant may not be easily accessible, as, in addition to passing a Standard Means Test, landlords must agree to this arrangement. Troy Pollanais, the Director of Social Welfare said unfortunately few landlords were willing.

“There are quite a number of landlords out there who have advised that they’re not willing to enter such an agreement, as such our hands will be tired, even if that person passes the Standard Means Test,” Pollanais told Guardian Media.

But the founder of the Rental Association of T&T (RATT), disputed Pollanais’ explanation saying the process was flawed.

“There is nothing in place. I have been reaching out to social welfare as well because people are saying social welfare is promising them assistance with the rent and the landlords are fed up waiting and this is why they are being evicted,” she told Guardian Media.

White said NGOs could only do so much since many shelters were full while others have reduced their intake due to COVID-19.

Additionally, she said due to an influx of domestic violence cases, shelters were now forced to prioritise intake.

People facing eviction may contact the Ministry of Social Development’s call centre at 800 – 1MSD (1673); The National Family Services Division for free counselling and psychosocial support at 623 – 2608; Ext 6701 – 6707 and the Domestic Violence hotline at 800-SAVE.

Read the full story in tomorrow’s Guardian Newspaper

Reporter: Bobie-Lee Dixon