Johnson County to provide Shelter House $60,000 for eviction diversion services

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Thursday to allocate $60,000 in ARPA money to Shelter House for a program that helps tenants pay late rent.


Averi Coffee

Chairperson Lisa Green-Douglass and supervisor V Fixmer-Oraiz listen to a presentation during the Johnson County Board of Supervisors meeting in the Johnson County Administration Building on Wednesday, April 26, 2023.

Alejandro Rojas, News Reporter

The Johnson County nonprofit Shelter House has plans to use a $60,000 grant of American Rescue Plan Act money to help tenants pay overdue rent. 

The county Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Thursday to allocate some of the money the county received from the federal government for COVID-19 pandemic relief. 

The program will specifically assist residents in paying rental arrears, the legal term for late rent. Johnson County Social Services Director Lynette Jacoby said Shelter House’s program involves the organization working with landlords to help tenants avoid being evicted.

“Shelter House works to try and mediate with landlords, and often that mediation requires coming up with some funds to help pay the rental arrears,” Jacoby said. 

She said the funding is budgeted to be used from this month until June 2024 to pay late rent.

The county has its own rental assistance program, the General Assistance Program, which is also aimed at helping residents. Under the program, the county provides short-term financial assistance for things like rent, food, and prescriptions, among others.

RELATED: Johnson County General Assistance program provides over $970,000 in financial assistance

Jacoby said in a March 22 presentation that the General Assistance Program served 797 households, providing over $970,000 in aid between July 1, 2022, and March 22.

But the county doesn’t provide money for overdue rent, and Jacoby said that a program from the state that did assist with late payments ended last year. The federal government funded the state program until September 2022, but millions went unspent and were set to be redistributed to other states after December 2022.

In 2022, 18,330 evictions were recorded in Iowa, which is an increase of over 5,000 from the year prior, according to Iowa Legal Aid

Jacoby also emphasized the importance of funding programs like these because it provides critical assistance to tenants.

“We know once folks are evicted, it’s really hard to obtain future housing for individuals that have a section eight housing voucher,” she said. “If they’re evicted, they generally lose their voucher, so this mediation is really critical.”