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Knoxville Area Urban League talks housing help, COVID impact

One of the core functions of the Knoxville Area Urban League is to help families with finding and maintaining housing.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Millions of people have struggled with housing, food and joblessness during the pandemic. The Knoxvlle Area Urban League like many non-profits as stepped in to help where it can. 

That work is part of Felix Harris' job. He's the vice president of programming and community engagement. 

"People might be losing their homes due to COVID..or renters may be evicted due to COVID," he said. 

That's where the Urban League is stepping up to help.

"We've been helping people with mortgage assistance, renters assistance and utility assistance," Harris said. 

However, Harris said though the pandemic has amplified their role in people's lives - it isn't necessarily a new barrier.

"It is a difficult conversation, but it's not an old conversation it is just that we are having more of the conversation right now," he said. 

In fact the Knoxville Area Urban League has been helping people with housing almost as long as it's been around.

"So, the Urban League is a HUD certified agency. One of the first nonprofits to have that certification since 1971," Harris said.

Harris said the Urban League started helping people buy homes back then and that continues, on top of providing financial education to show people where the process begins in the first place.

But again that help can look different depending on people's needs and what is happening in the world at the time.

"We are trying to help people save their homes, we do rental counseling and rental assistance," Harris said. "Right now we have people buying houses and people at risk of losing their houses so you get to see a different end of the spectrum of what is going on."

The Knoxville Area Urban League helps hundreds of people each year, but COVID could mean that number looks a little different."

"We help about 300 people each year about 100 purchase homes," Harris said. "But I can tell you right now within the last week we've helped 50 people either from being evicted or from being foreclosed on."

"We want them to be able to stay in their homes and we want them to know that's why we are here," Harris said. "We want to empower them."

You can learn more about the Urban League's programming and how you can donate here. You also won't want to miss the virtual Urban League Impact even on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 4 p.m. Info below.

Credit: WBIR