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'Full-Blown Homelessness Crisis' Coming, Warns John Oliver as Eviction Tsunami Fears Grow

"The situation is looking really dire."

A graffiti asking for rent forgiveness is seen on a wall on La Brea Ave on National May Day amid the Covid-19 pandemic, May 1, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo:Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

Comedian John Oliver on his HBO show Sunday night drew attention to a looming eviction crisis facing the U.S. as federal, state, and local aid programs aimed at offsetting the economic disaster brought about by the coronavirus pandemic dry up. 

"Experts are predicting horrific outcomes," said Oliver. "If evictions continue as normal, this public health crisis could soon turn into a full-blown homelessness crisis."

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Government programs in the wake of the outbreak and economic shutdown that followed, including economic stimulus checks, unemployment bonuses, and evictions moratoriums, have for the most part kept homelessness around the country to a minimum. But those protections are expiring despite the continuing pandemic. 

As the Boston Globe reported Monday:

A lack of affordable housing is [a] systemic problem in the US, with the majority of people spending more than half of their income on shelter costs alone, Oliver added, noting that about one million households have been evicted each year for over a decade, disproportionately impacting people of color, with Black women especially vulnerable. Oliver also noted that about one-third of US households are renters, and renters tend to have lower incomes than homeowners.

In a separate report Sunday, the Globe noted that the August 18 expiration of a Massachusetts law imposing a moratorium on evictions across the commonwealth was likely to lead to a "tsunami" of evictions.

"The situation is looking really dire," Lisa Owens, executive director of tenants' rights group City Life/Vida Urbana, told the Globe. "We are facing what could be dramatic levels of homelessness, and neighborhood and citywide instability."

Eviction hearings in states like Texas have resumed remotely, with judges using apps like Zoom to facilitate throwing people out of their homes. 

Oliver in his show Sunday said that because evictions are coming as the disease surges around the U.S. and economic reopenings falter, the timing could not be worse to restart the process.

"We're about to go out of our way to throw people out of their homes at the worst possible time," said Oliver.

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