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Fulton County program helps renters, landlords cover payments

The Support Anyone Facing Eviction (SAFE) program comes as thousands face eviction.

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — A pivotal step in helping prevent homelessness was unveiled in Fulton County Wednesday.

The Support Anyone Facing Eviction (SAFE) Program is part of an effort to keep Fulton County citizens “safe” by helping renters, and also mortgage owners who depend on renter payments to cover their mortgages.

Developed by Fulton County Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman, with the assistance of Chief Magistrate Judge Cassandra Kirk, the program is designed to be a “fast-track” system in identifying renters facing eviction at the final stages.

Dozens of renters and landlords flooded the mediation hearings on Zoom and in person on Wednesday, as the county officially launched the program.

“We know that the pandemic hit people, who generally speaking would not be homeless. I have field calls in my office where people are sleeping in their cars," explained Commissioner Khadijah Abdur- Rahman.

Chief Magistrate Judge Cassandra Kirk explaining the county expected to see an uptick in landlord and tenant filings as the year progressed.

"Forty-five thousand landlord-tenant filings come to Fulton County each year. During the judicial emergency, that number was reduced 22,000. This year we expect over 51,000 landlord tenant filings alone," Kirk said. 

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Through the program, both the tenant and the landlord must agree to mediate eviction. If they do, the landlord can receive back rent up to $7,800; the eviction proceedings will end and the case will be closed. If the landlord chooses not to participate in the direct payment plan, then the tenant will be evicted and the county will provide the financial assistance directly to the tenant to aid in finding them housing.

Also under the program, specialists will be on site in the court house to help tenants determine their eligibility and provide application assistance. 

The support staff will also ensure priority payments are made directly to landlords if tenants aren't evicted or to tenants if they are evicted. 

Money is being used from federal dollars designed to “rescue” those impacted adversely by the pandemic. The resolution specifically required the county to prioritize mortgage, rental, and other assistance. They must determine how the county would deploy and allocate the millions in federal dollars. The money came from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was signed into law in March by President Joe Biden.