DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Half of the families who live in public housing in Durham are behind in rent, according to officials with the Durham Housing Authority.

There are currently around 1,400 families who live in DHA housing, and 700 of those families are behind in rent payments.

Ashley Canady is a mother of four and president of McDougald Terrace.

She said the last year brought some unexpected challenges her way, and she got behind $1,000 in her rent.

“When you worry every day whether you’re going to be evicted or not, it’s stressful,” Canady said. “It’s depressing because you’re living in an apartment that’s falling apart, and then you have this other issue that’s weighing over your head, where do you go?”

Last week at National Night Out, Canady said she found out about the Hope Program that helps families who are behind in their rent.

With its help, she said she no longer faces an eviction.

“I had to put my pride to the side and stop being stubborn and the Hope Program helped me,” Canady said.

Ashanti Brown, DHA’s director of strategic management, said about 230 families have attempted to access rent assistance, but that still leaves more than 400 families who need help, so they won’t be evicted.

“To have 50 percent of our families behind in rent, based on our regular tracking, that’s 300 percent more than normal,” Brown said. “That’s very concerning. That’s why we put forth a significant effort to help everyone who has been impacted by COVID-19 and let them know what resources we have.”

Brown said DHA has created a Fresh Start program which is made up of a team of people who contact families who are behind in their rent and let them know what resources are available.

For instance, Durham County is still taking applications for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which helps tenants who are behind in rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said they have sent out flyers to families and they plan to start door-knocking in DHA communities soon to let families know about the help that’s available.

Brown said there are other community organizations and churches that are willing to help families if they need help with rent.

She said DHA can also work with families on payment agreements as well.

Brown said the goal is to get families the help they need before the moratorium ends in October.

“This is not a ‘gotcha,’ this is not an attempt to make you feel bad about anything,” Brown said. “We all have been impacted by COVID-19 and we want to help.”

For more information on DHA’s Fresh Start program, click here.

For more information on Durham’s Emergency Rental Assistance program, click on this link.

For more information on rental help available through the HOPE program, click here.