Organizations in Erie County combine efforts to prevent homelessness in the region, with a focus on stopping evictions. The mostly non-profit agencies, including the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, want to help ensure housing stability for low to moderate income tenants. To make that happen, clients may be provided support for paying pay due rental costs in the form of grants as well as counseling.
The goal is to always help a family find, and secure for the long term, permanent affordable housing. Ideally, the objective is to offer eviction assistance to pro-actively keep the tenant in their home or apartment. If that doesn't work, the local Buffalo New York based agencies such as Matt Urban Human Services Center will try to rehouse the homeless.
Eviction assistance may be provided from Emergency Solution Grants, or ESG, which are issued to non-profits as well as government affiliated agencies in Erie County each year. The funds are then provided to qualifying households to either help stop the eviction or rehouse the family. To be qualified, the tenant needs to meet income conditions and be currently living in an affordable home. Local non-profit organizations will not tend to assist those people who are living in an apartment they can't afford over time or that have created their own financial hardship by wasting their income or spending frivolously.
Erie County tenants that are struggling should contact organizations such as the Homeless Alliance of Western New York before they even fall behind on their rent. Or if they are facing eviction due to unpaid utility bills, then they should contact Human Service agencies or community action groups in Buffalo to apply for LIHEAP or other aid. It is critical to ask for help before falling too far behind.
When a landlord sends the tenant a pay or quit notice, in these cases assistance can still be provided. The resources available can include a free legal review of the eviction letter. If and when the issue proceeds to the point of going to housing court in Erie County, then a attorney will represent the client on a case by case basis. Other tactics that are also part of the legal assistance is mediation between all parties.
Money from ESG can assist with rental arrears as well as utility payments that may be past due. In most cases, only a portion of the housing costs will be paid by the organizations, however it can last multiple months so the tenant gains some form of stability. Families in Buffalo and Erie County can used these government funds for the expenses they owe to stop, or at minimum delay, an eviction from occurring.
The homeless can call on the crisis line (see below) for information on rehousing. There are also non-profits such as the Matt Urban Hope Center that can offer intake on this multiple step process.
It is widely recognized that just rehousing a family is not enough. The client needs to be giving ongoing tenancy support too. This is used to help break a cycle of evictions as well as homelessness. The process may address the following:
The goal is to get the family into some type of home as soon as possible. The fastest solution is often a transitional housing program. If those are filled to capacity, then motel or hotel vouchers may be issued in the Buffalo market. No matter what is available, full participation in everything from budgeting workshops to job placement is required. Also, participants will need to save a portion of their income for paying future rental or deposit costs.
Those short term accommodations will then lead to Homeless Alliance of Western New York affiliated agencies moving the individual into a new home or apartment in the Erie County marketplace. Before this is done there needs to be proof that the family is now stable.
Rehousing will give priority to the recently evicted. There is also a focus on homes with children (such as single parents) as well as the elderly. Keeping them safe, in their own new home or a motel room is beneficial to the region. While term and conditions can change, in general eligible households need to have an income below 50% of the medium income and have a qualifying housing crisis.
Since many lower income residents struggle to pay for the costs of moving, Emergency Solution Grants from HUD may help here as well. This government money is not only used for preventing evictions to begin with, but it also may be able to assist with expenses such as a lease application fee or security deposit as part of rehousing. All of this is done to help people secure permanent, stable housing, then they can work on other needs.
The Erie County New York crisis line for referrals to eviction assistance can be reached at 716-834-3131. Staff will screen the caller for legibility, as walk-ins are generally not accepted by the agencies that participate.
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