April rent gets waived for 25 tenants in Muskegon

"Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures," said Community enCompass executive director Sarah Rinsema-Sybenga
Posted at 3:21 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 21:39:33-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. — A community development organization that manages rental properties has waived April rent fees for all 25 of their tenants.

Community enCompass has been working to help house people in the Muskegon area for over 30 years now. This is the first time they have decided not to collect rent from their tenants.

“This is unprecedented and I guess unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures,” Sarah Rinsema-Sybenga, executive Director of Community enCompass told FOX 17 Wednesday.

The organization's board of directors approved the decision on Monday.

“All 25 have been with us for longer than four years. And so we really just wanted to reach out and say, we see you, we see the pain that this is causing. We care, we are here,” Rinsema-Sybenga said. “Because housing really is essential for people to be able to do this thing called social distancing, you need to have a home.”

Tenants were contacted Wednesday about the decision.

“We’re just starting to hear back from tenants, many of them, you know, ripped open the letter right then... just gratitude, tears, relief. Some people called it a sign of hope," Rinsema-Sybenga said.

Community enCompass is accepting donations in order to help them faciliate this decision. You can donate at their website.

For the majority of people, who are still on the hook for April's rent payment, Karen Tjapkes with Legal Aid of Western Michigan says there are steps you can take.

“The first thing we tell tenants is to talk to their landlords. I know that's scary. I know sometimes folks may not always have the best relationship with their landlords. But that's really the first thing they want to do is talk to the landlord explain what the problem is, that they've lost the job," Tjapkes told FOX 17. “Beyond that, we usually tell tenants that they can access services and financial supports, beginning with 211. 211 usually has a pretty good idea of what resources are available and can help connect them to other emergency services.”

Tjapkes says there has been a lot of misinformation being spread right now about rent payments being waived at a state or federal level. That is not the case, though Governor Gretchen Whitmer has temporarily suspended evictions.

Visit Heart of West Michigan United Way's website for more information about those services available via the 211 service.