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Leaders concerned over homeless population as governor’s eviction moratorium ends

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Governor Tony Evers’ moratorium on evictions ends Tuesday night, which means some renters who were late on their payments could see an eviction notice soon on their door.

The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee says they saw an increase in questions Tuesday relating to evictions in the city, and they anticipate it to increase in the near future as notices and court filings come in.

“Now that the state moratorium is over, landlords can start giving tenants notices, whether it’s 5-day, 14-day or 30-day,” said Joe Riepenhoff, Staff Attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee.

Studies show before the coronavirus pandemic, on average nearly 16 households in Milwaukee were evicted every day. The American Civil Liberties Union says it’s inevitable the homeless population will surge if there’s a significant rise in evictions.

“It’s particularly troubling to think that there may be a mass flood of evictions at the end of this moratorium today, leaving people with nowhere to go and on the streets during this time,” said Asma Keeler, Staff Attorney for ACLU of Wisconsin.

“We are concerned as to what’s going to happen with our homeless population,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “We know there are a lot of vulnerable people out there that have been hit very hard economically.”

The ACLU wrote a letter to the governor urging him to extend the moratorium, but it didn’t happen. They say evictions are disproportionately affecting the black community in Milwaukee, and 30-percent of evictions are black women.

“We don’t want to see people losing their homes during a time of extreme instability that’s really unprecedented,” added Keeler.

“We’ve got about $4.2 million dollars that is geared towards emergency shelters to street outreach to homeless prevention and to rapid rehousing, because we know those are real issues,” said Mayor Barrett.

Leaders say people struggling to pay rent can apply for the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program if they meet criteria.

“This is for people who have had income lost due to the pandemic and they will be able to get up to $3,000 for rent or security deposits,” said Wisconsin’s Lt. Governor, Mandela Barnes.

The money from WRAP could take time to get to you.

“That rental assistance program would be an option to help them, but it’s just beginning to be implemented,” added Riepenhoff.

“While a $3,000 maximum rental assistance will provide some support, the ever-shifting reality of the pandemic will make it harder for people to know how far that money will go,” said Keeler.

Experts say it’s important to keep in contact with your landlord when a notice is given, before a court date is served and the sheriff’s office enforces the eviction. In the case you get a knock on your door from a deputy, Riepenhoff says to stay calm, be polite, and raise an objection if you feel it could be resolved.

“Try to use that legal language that I believe this rid has expired, or I believe the issue has been resolved with my landlord, or is there any way we can get a confirmation from a judge before this proceeds?” said Riepenhoff.

While the state moratorium ends Tuesday, the federal moratorium on evictions does protect people living in federally funded housing until July or August.

To contact the ACLU, click here.

To contact an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, click here.

For a list of agencies accepting applications for the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program, click here.

For immediate assistance following an eviction, click here.

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