Featured photo: Residents, organizers volunteers with Guilford For All and American Friends Service Committee met at Creative Aging Network in Greensboro on Sunday afternoon to launch an effort called Keep Gate City Housed. (Photo by Gale Melcher)

“How does it make you feel when you have housing?” Terrell Dungee asked a crowd at the Creative Aging Network in Greensboro on Sunday afternoon. 

“Security,” someone shouted out.

“Gratitude,” another piped up.



Dungee, a community organizer for NC American Friends Service Committee, along with NC AFSC Program Director Cecile Crawford and dozens of volunteers recently launched a movement called Keep Gate City Housed.

Last year, around 16,000 Guilford County residents had eviction notices filed against them according to data collected by the North Carolina Housing Coalition.

While 90 percent of landlords in housing court had legal representation, only 10 percent of evicted tenants had the same privilege, according to Crawford and Dungee.

But there’s a legal resource program helping those in Guilford County stay in their homes. TEAM, or Tenant Education Advocacy Mediation is a group that operates out of UNCG that has been working directly with people who face evictions for the last several months. They set up a table outside the small claims eviction court in Guilford County and High Point on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, providing legal representation, mediation services and help with rental assistance applications.

TEAM has helped 15 percent of those 16,000 tenants avoid eviction.

Still, the NC lead said that a lot of people who need this assistance don’t know that help exists.

“Great program, but not getting it out that there are resources, there are things to help you,” she said. That’s where Keep Gate City Housed comes in.

For the next few months, the group will be advocating for an increase in funding for TEAM at city council meetings and knocking on doors to raise awareness about the program.

“All we need to do is make sure that it’s funded so that people can actually see that table every day that people are facing evictions,” Crawford said.

During the pandemic, states put a pause on evictions and helped fund eviction prevention through federal funding. Greensboro received about $13 million in federal funding for rental assistance but that money has run out, Crawford said.

Now, Keep Gate City Housed is pushing for the city of Greensboro to include funding for TEAM — $440,000 annually — in their upcoming budget.

Organizer Terrell Dungee explains the goals of a new local effort called Keep Gate City Housed. (Photo by Gale Melcher).

The city’s fiscal year begins on July 1. On May 21, the city manager will present the recommended budget to the mayor and city council, and on June 4 the city will hold a public hearing so residents can comment on the proposed budget. On June 18, city leaders will vote to adopt the budget.

Keep Gate City Housed also wants the city to contribute $1.5 million to fund a rental assistance program for families fighting evictions.

Update: The open air eviction court will now be held at 6 p.m., previously it was scheduled for 5-6 p.m.

The group will be holding an open air eviction court outside city hall at 6 p.m. on April 16 during the city council meeting that evening. It will show onlookers the process of what happens to people during the eviction process and what they face.

Ellen Thompson, a Greensboro resident impacted by housing insecurity, said at the event on Sunday that she has battled mental health issues which has made it difficult for her to secure stable housing. 

“Several months after I arrived in Greensboro, my mental health began to decline, and I dropped out of school,” she said. “I lost my campus housing and used the remainder of my savings living in extended stay hotels in the area. I then ended up being hospitalized for a while.”

Dungee and others with the American Friends Services Committee say that by highlighting real people and raising more awareness, they are pushing back against the narrative “that people are homeless because they are lazy and not working.”

When Thompson was discharged from the hospital, she ended up at a shelter in Greensboro. Once her temporary housing at this shelter ended, staff planned to send her to a shelter in High Point, but Thompson explained that she didn’t want to go because all of her contacts, resources and belongings were in Greensboro. Luckily, through the Greensboro shelter, she was able to rent out a room in a home from someone who was “truly kind and genuinely wanted to help those in need.” Thompson also got a job cleaning in the shelter.

Thompson feels lucky. 

“Finding a job and housing almost simultaneously is not typical,” she said. “Every day in Greensboro, dozens of families have evictions filed against them. Not enough of them have landlords willing to cut them a break before going to court.”

Once they get to court, many of these families “don’t have the support they need to understand their rights.”

“We shouldn’t have to count on people like me being lucky,” Thompson said.  “Programs like TEAM won’t completely prevent homelessness, but…they can go a long way.”

And that’s the whole reason for the initiative, Crawford said.

“The city can save lives by keeping people in their homes.”

If you or anyone you know would like to share their story about eviction, please send an email to Gale Melcher at [email protected].

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