On January 15, the moratorium imposed on evictions at the start of the pandemic expired, leaving some local residents facing the possibility of eviction.
“For tenants, we encourage them to know their rights,” said Josiah Lamp, chair of the Chautauqua County Homeless Coalition. “Just because they’ve received a request or notice doesn’t mean they have to leave right away. … They are protected and the procedure is regular.
Lamp encourages people facing an eviction notice to call the county’s Department of Health and Human Services for an appointment to see if they are eligible for assistance. Additionally, Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. can also provide assistance.
“We always work with people, now we’re just changing the way we work with people,” Lamp said. “There has been an increase in homelessness in 2021, and during the pandemic there has been an increase and it could increase further.”
Lamp said New York State law protects tenants from unlawful evictions and those who need help should contact Western New York Legal Assistance. Additionally, tenants who have applied for assistance under New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program are also protected from eviction, until a decision is made on their application.
While it’s still too early to tell how widespread that impact will be, Lamp said they’ll be able to get a better idea in a few months. Until then, he expects the number to grow over the months and wants to make sure people are aware.
“At the moment, we want to get the message out so people know what their resources are,” Lamp said. “As we learn more over the next two months, we just want people to be aware. … The process takes a bit of time.
At the start of the pandemic, Lamp said local nonprofits stepped up to help people meet other needs caused by the pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic, our local nonprofits have stepped up to meet the needs of the community and they will continue to serve those who may now be facing a housing crisis,” Lamp said. “From the start of the pandemic, there was a lot of interest in helping people and a lot of resources were put into helping people with food, but housing was not a major concern because of the moratorium. It helped people through a different stage, but it becomes a bigger need.