On one of the coldest days of the year, February 5, 2022, and also one of the busiest days in BronxWorks, with four different events happening simultaneously – a winter coat giveaway by 77th District Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, a Covid 19 vaccine site, food pantry and a youth basketball game, Africans from all walks of life, lined up to participate in Africans Help Desk first formal event of the year – a legal clinic on housing, to help community members navigate the challenging and complex housing system in New York City.
Barbara Aybar, who led the Home Base team, a program designed to keep people in their homes, and prevent homelessness in New York City, talked about the various services provided by, such helping with Section 8 applications, helping people to move into apartments, getting money for furniture, and even helping to pay for moving expenses. She also added that the Section 8 voucher program was recently opened, and would be closing by the end of February 2022. She encouraged those who qualified, to apply as soon as possible.
Answering a question from one attendee, about the application for housing, she stated that BronxWorks does not assist people with Housing, but can help with the application process, and in some cases, guide applicants to agencies that assist in looking for housing, and would even help broker fees, if you qualify.
Jordan Dewbre, Esq., the Housing Attorney for BronxWorks, then announced that with the expiration of the eviction moratorium on January 15, 2022, there is the likelihood that landlords would start filing evictions, and also the courts would open applications that had been suspended during the moratorium. However, he added that tenants had some rights, that they are entitled to, if their landlord decides to evict them.
First, it is illegal for any landlord to lock out a tenant, without a court order. That means they cannot change the locks. If they do that, a tenant can call the police or change the locks themselves. Also, if there are any repair issues, not safe or has violations,, tenants should document all the violations, just in case they go to court. If there is an emergency, and the landlord refuses to address the issue, tenants should call 311, and file a report. Usually, the city send an inspector after a few days to ascertain the violations, and in some cases issue summonses to the landlord.
He then announced that the Emergency Rent Assistance Program, which ended some time last year, had reopened, and people could apply for the relief again. However, the actual money allocated for the program had run out, but a completed application would provide protection against evictions. Also, there is the possibility that some monies would hopefully be allocated by the Federal government in March, as requested by Governor Hochul. When that happens, those applications already in the system, would be the first ones to be reviewed. It is very imperative, therefore, that anyone having issues with rent, should make sure they reach out and seek assistance.
The host of the program, Mr. Mohammed Mardah of Africans Help Desk, thanked the HomeBase team as well as Lawyer Jordan for their presentations, and opened up the one on one private sessions, where attendees were consulted privately with the attorney as well as the Home Base team.
As attendees ended their consultations, each one of them was handed a gift bag with information about BronxWorks, and some SWAGS, and then they moved to the Africans Help Desk table where they were given Covid 19 Self test home kit,a box of KN95 masks, and a bottle of sanitizers.
Stay tuned for our next clinic, which is likely to be on finance and taxes, as we go into the tax filing season. We want to make sure that community members do not get taken advantage of by some unscrupulous tax preparers.