‘We are in the midst of a burgeoning humanitarian crisis’

Groups tell of ‘horror stories’ following the end of eviction moratorium

(Nevada Current file photo)

Since the statewide eviction moratorium lifted Oct. 15, Carmella Gadsen, a local community activist, has heard horror stories of people being kicked out of their homes and left with nowhere to go. 

“I’ve heard of entire complexes of people coming home and their doors being locked and things being thrown out or packed up into trailers,” Gadsen said during a press conference Friday. “We have a father who came home and all of his belongings were taken from his home. He was locked out and his landlord left on vacation.”

Gadsen joined with Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center and the Las Vegas chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America to warn renters are falling through the cracks and too many are struggling to obtain assistance. 

“We are in the midst of a burgeoning humanitarian crisis,” she said. “We know that the county and municipal governments did receive CARES Act money and they are working to process those applications and get rental assistance to the people who need it. But that is not occurring at the rate of need. There are still people being pushed out onto the streets, being forced to bunk up or be roommates in close quarters during a viral pandemic that is disproportionately affecting low-income people of color.”

Clark County began accepting applications for its CARES Housing Assistance Program on Oct. 15, which coincided with the eviction moratorium ending. The rules for applying for assistance, which is funded by coronavirus relief dollars, were adjusted to make the process more accessible. 

When Clark County first started accepting applications over the summer, spokesman Erik Pappa said about 3,800 households were served. Since launching a new online portal, the county has received another 4,700 applications. 

“With the $50 million available to us, we think we can serve another approximately 6,300 households,” Pappa said in an email Friday.

The temporary residential summary eviction mediation also launched through the courts Oct. 15 to help tenants and landlords negotiate options and get connected to assistance prior to legal proceedings.

Home Means Nevada, the nonprofit established by the Nevada Division of Business and Industry that is running the program and assigning mediators, has only had one request for mediation since the program began. 

Though an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prevents evictions among tenants who can’t pay rent — despite their best efforts — and are vulnerable to homelessness until Dec. 31, it’s on the tenant to submit a declaration to landlords. 

Some landlords have challenged or ignored declarations and proceeded with evictions. 

“We are struggling to inform people of their rights and defend against unlawful evictions,” said Cecilia Diaz, the Covid-19 benefits connector with Arriba. “Since the moratorium has ended, landlords feel like they have a green light and that they can start using abusive tactics to get tenants out.”

The Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project and the Aspen Institute have noted the eviction crisis has already disproportionately affected people of color.

Diaz added it’s also immigrant communities in Southern Nevada that are feeling the brunt of the pandemic.

“Immigrant workers are an integral part of this community, but with this pandemic they’ve been bludgeoned over and over,” she said. “There are being worn out by the economic health and mental health consequences that Covid-19 has brought. Immigrant families, along with mixed-status families, don’t receive unemployment benefits and they didn’t get a stimulus check. They aren’t getting paid sick days. A lot of our members have sought out help and over and over again, doors have been closed and no aid has been given.”

Pappa wasn’t able to say what efforts were put in place to address language barriers or other obstacles immigrant communities are facing or to ensure they are being made aware of assistance available. 

Activists and immigrant groups have also called for stimulus and extended resources to be extended to undocumented immigrants in additional relief packages. However, negotiations around an additional stimulus package have stalled. 

Without more intervention, these groups also see a crisis on the horizon as the timeframe to use relief dollars expires at the end of the year. 

“Come January, we are going to see a new wave of economic harm and homelessness,” Diaz said. 

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.