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DeKalb County woman has days to find new place to live after COVID infection

With inflation, an unstable housing market, and no way to pay rent, a DeKalb County woman says she is on the verge of homelessness after being infected with Covid-19.

Zenette Steele has been living in her DeKalb County rental home since May 2020.

“I was told that if I wanted to go for another year, I would have to upgrade to $1,800. I extended until December 2021,” she said.

Steele is a certified practical nurse and worked part-time at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport until COVID joined her in August. She was hospitalized for a month.

“It kept me from working, but you can kind of hear my voice, I’m starting to come into my own. They call it the long term COVID,” she said.

Steele says she still isn’t strong enough to return to work. So she applied for money from the DeKalb County Housing Assistance Program to keep her in her house.

“They paid from September, October, November, December, then January and February,” she said.

That was about $9,000 for rent due, rent to come, and utilities. She is among 3,000 people who received part of DeKalb’s $30 million for COVID rental assistance in 2021. Thousands more received assistance early in the pandemic. But that doesn’t necessarily erase the problems.

Steele’s owner won’t let her stay this month without another check.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond says rental assistance can’t do much.

“We know there are people who are still unemployed and the cost of rent is rising exponentially and housing is a challenge,” Thurmond said. “I don’t want it to sound like we’re saying ‘we helped you, bad luck. “”

He encourages people like Steele to seek similar public funding and use county partnerships with nonprofit councilors. But that takes time – time that some people just don’t have.

Steele has to be out of her house by Monday.

She says landlords keep turning her down because she’s unemployed and can’t pay three months’ rent up front.

If you are in a similar situation, you can call 404-687-3500 for help.