Catonsville nonprofit to hold eviction prevention yard sale

The Catonsville nonprofit CEFM Network is constantly looking for ways to help the less fortunate.

The organization will be holding a yard sale Saturday, May 17, from 8 a.m. to noon to raise money for its eviction prevention program.

The group is asking for donations to be sold at the yard sale, which can be dropped off at 25 Bloomsbury Avenue on Thursday, May 15 from 1 to 6 p.m.

Formerly known as the Catonsville Emergency Food Ministries, the organization began as a food pantry in 1984.

About 10 years ago, the organization began offering eviction prevention services to help local families stay in their homes.

Since July 2013, the organization has prevented 42 evictions from happening in the area, according to Executive Director Megan Murduck.

But the organization is struggling to raise adequate funds to help those facing hard times, Murduck said in an email.

"We are constantly receiving requests for rental assistance from our Catonsville neighbors," Murduck said.

The program has been helping families stay in their housing for 10 years, Murduck said.

"Our eviction prevention funds are running low and we are afraid that we may not be able to continue providing eviction prevention assistance without more support," Murduck said.

The eviction program provides area residents with assistance in paying their rent in times of crisis, which allows them to retain housing and stay off the streets, Murduck said.

Murduck said the program may seem like a "Band-Aid" program that is a temporary solution to the problem, but the group does its best to ensure families retain their housing by requiring the full amount of the rent be paid to the landlord up front.

CEFM Network often helps the families pay their rent by offering matching funds, rather than paying the full amount, Carr said.

"Typically, our efforts to keep them in housing revolve around…trying to get them out of their previous month's debt. Many of them are in the situation because they were late on their rent months before and they're trying to catch up," Murduck said.

"Our efforts are more geared toward getting them out of their situation and giving them a fresh start," she said.

The hope had been to prevent 90 evictions in Catonsville this fiscal year, but the organization has only raised between 55 to 70 percent of funds needed through grants and partnerships with local churches, said Peggy Carr, president of the board at CEFM Network.

The organization has been forced to adjust it goal due to lack of funding, construction at the headquarters on Bloomsbury Avenue and changes in staff. Now, the goal is prevent 52 evictions by July, Murduck said.

Some of the money comes in part through a grant from the Emergency and Transitional Housing Services state program. Funds are also donated by churches. However, the funding is not enough to meet the need of area residents who face homelessness, Murduck said.

"Times are tight and churches aren't able to support the way that they used to," Murduck said.

The nonprofit on Bloomsbury Avenue has the mission of serving area residents with emergency food services, eviction prevention, medical prescription assistance and other essential services, according to its website.

Providing stable housing is part of a greater goal of creating stable neighborhoods that lead to a stronger overall community, which decreases crime and promotes greater success in education, Murduck said.

When the organization was founded in 1984 by Alice March and several friends in the basement of her Catonsville home, it focused on housing and providing food to the homeless, Carr said.

But as the organization grew, it was able to offer more services such as eviction prevention, she said.

Carr said the organization has appreciated the community's support over the years and hopes to see that support come through again to aid its fundraising efforts for eviction prevention.

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