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Father and Child


Jun 01 2022

Blog: Rental assistance program provides much needed help

The COVID-19 pandemic swept through the region, changing how people lived and worked for years to come. Countless people were affected; some lost their jobs or ability to function; some became sick and couldn’t enjoy the things they once did; others lost more than that. Many people are still recovering, whether physically, emotionally, socially, or financially. 

Last year, the Lake County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (LCERA), through Geminus Corporation, a member of the Regional Care Group, helped relieve the burden and stress added by the pandemic by giving out aid to help combat and prevent eviction and homelessness happening in the area. 

One recipient, Amber Lewis, a resident of Merrillville, said life felt easier to manage. Lewis applied for rental assistance in May of 2021 after falling on hard times. Due to an unexpected shutdown that lasted a little over three months, she lost her job as an auto assembler, becoming unemployed. Unsure of when they would be returning, Lewis tried to find work elsewhere, to no avail. After applying for other relief programs and employment without luck, she lost hope. That is when she learned about the rental assistance program through a relative. 

The Lake County Redevelopment Commission, through the U.S. Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance program, granted Geminus the funding to distribute emergency assistance to applicants for rent and utilities. The program provided up to 12 months of rent, utility, energy, and internet assistance for eligible households, meaning applicants must have met requirements before being approved. 

Lewis applied and waited nervously, not knowing how things would go. After five months, she got good news, receiving rental assistance in October. 

“Now, I don’t have to stress or worry about overdue rent,” she said. “When I got the acceptance email, I opened it at once; I smiled, and tears came down my eyes. I couldn’t believe it,” Lewis said. “Not only was I able to pay off what I owed, but I was able to create a buffer where I didn’t have to worry about rent for the next couple of months. I’m truly grateful for that.”  

Over 6,000 residents applied to the program; 3,060 required emergency assistance. 

Another recipient, Jamila Allen, excitedly described her experience as “awesome” when recollecting how things went. Allen applied for the program in August of 2021. Allen has four children, two of whom live at home. She worked for 11 years with PLS Check Cashers, becoming a store manager in 2016; when COVID hit, she lost that job. 

She applied for unemployment in July but was one of many who didn’t hear back; finding another job wasn’t easy. Her landlord was on the verge of evicting tenants, refusing to fix important apartment issues until she paid the rent. She tried to reach out elsewhere for help, but no one was willing to assist. Her main goal was not to give up and keep her family afloat. 

“I didn’t want to lose that stability for my kids,” she said. 

When Sonia Magallon, president of Geminus, reached out to her, she also assisted with paperwork and found emergency resources while she waited. Allen said Magallon was “helpful and nice.” She received assistance in October, covering all rent and utilities when she needed it the most. Receiving rent and utility help gave her time to get back on her feet. 

Geminus received $13 million at the beginning to give out, then received an additional $27 million in funding. 

“I was able to stay strong and focused for my kids. I didn’t fall apart.” She said. “All praises to God! Praise Sonia and her team.” Geminus distributed over $21 of the $40 million to those who applied.  

A property owner, who has tenants and owns properties in Gary, described the assistance program as “great and super helpful.” 

“They did a good job educating tenants and being responsive and on-time with answering questions.” The owner said. He assisted with applications when needed, but other than that, the application was self-explanatory; tenants did the work on their own. “There was not too much work once I filled out the landlord form. I follow up with them and fill in anything left,” he said. The relief lifted the spirits of his tenants. 

The Lake County Rental Assistance Program came when many people were unsure of what to do next. Now, thanks to the funds received through Geminus and the program, residents of Lake County can breathe a bit easier and make the road to recovery a bit smoother. 

“Without the rental assistance program, I don’t know where I could be right now,” Lewis said. “It helped me recover from a difficult spot.” 

To learn more about upcoming events, programs or services, visit If you or someone you know needs assistance, please get in touch with Geminus at 219-757-1800.