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Help available after moratorium expires

On Jan. 15, the moratorium placed 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, president of the Chautauqua County Homeless Coalition. “Just because they’ve been given a demand or notice doesn’t mean they have to leave right away. … They are protected and there is due process.”

Lamp encourages people facing an eviction notice to call the county Department of Health and Human Services for an appointment to see if they’re eligible for assistance. Additionally, Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. also can provide assistance.

“We’re always working with people, now we’re just changing how we work with people,” Lamp said. “There was an increase in homelessness in 2021, and during the pandemic there was an increase and this could increase even upon that.”

Lamp said New York state law protects tenants from illegal evictions, and those needing help should contact Legal Assistance of Western New York. 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 too early to tell yet just how widespread this 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 increase as the months go on, and wants to make sure people are aware.

“For the moment, we want to get the message out so that people know what their resources are,” Lamp said. “As we know more over the next couple months, we just want people to be aware. … The process takes a little bit of time.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Lamp said that the local nonprofit organizations stepped up to help people meet other needs the pandemic caused.

“Throughout the pandemic, our local nonprofits have stepped up to meet needs in the community and they will continue to serve those who may now be facing a housing crisis,” said Lamp.

“Right at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of interest in helping people and a lot of resources went to helping people with food but housing wasn’t a major concern because of the moratorium. That helped people through a different stage but it’s becoming a bigger need.”

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