PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Small business owner Paris Rafeal Williams was struggling to keep his home and his business afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, he found a lifeline for him, his wife, and his two kids. Now, he wants people who are facing mounting fears over eviction to know that they can find help too as the national eviction moratorium came to an end on Saturday.
"Things were going good. But, COVID really struck and when it stuck to the core it really took me out," said Williams, who owns tailoring business L'un D'un Paris, and who relied on the rental assistance program to pay bills during the pandemic. "...I was really going through a hard time trying to get sales because people weren't trying to buy anything if it wasn't a mask."
"I got an email and it pretty much told me it was going to pay the back rent anda bout two months ahead," he said about the program which helped him supplement costs to allow him time to build his business back up again.
The end of the national moratorium on evictions has raised fears that mass evictions could leave families homeless.
Attorney David Lanza, who represents Capital Area Rental Property Owners, told FOX43 the fear of 'mass evictions' may not be based in reality as the number of people who fell under the latest national moratorium was limited in scope.
"I think there's been a lot of misinformation on media outlets that I've seen. they're talking about expecting a wave of evictions and a wave of homelessness. and I just don't see that happening," said Lanza. "..evictions have gone forward over the past year. They've worked on enough problem tenants over the past year. They're not holding back and suddenly going to file hundreds of evictions. I think that's something that's been over-hyped."
Lanza said most landlords also want to work with their tenants to keep them in their homes.
"I know that many of the landlord groups recommend working with tenants, nursing a bad situation if you can. It's expensive to replace a tenant," he said.
The Harrisburg Housing Authority offers assistance to low income and extremely low income individuals who do find themselves in a situation where they are facing homelessness. Oche Bridgeford of the Harrisburg Housing Authority encouraged anyone to reach out.
"As you spoke, there is a stigma that's associated with living in low income housing. But, there is nothing that's more embarrassing than being in a position where you're facing homelessness and haven't taken advantage of the resources that are readily available for you," he said.
Bridgeford noted that the organization will help families in all types of financial situations. They are also assisting families who are already in low income housing to find additional resources.
"Our residents, though they're in public housing, they have also faced layoffs. They've also faced reduced work hours and reduced income. So, this has put them in a position where they are in jeopardy as well as the general community," he said.
Officials encourage those who need assistance -- whether it be risking eviction or utility shutoffs, to apply now and not to wait.
While on ERAP you can find information on what documents are needed to apply, FAQ's, who the program helps, what makes you eligible, and more.
There are more than 400 emergency rental assistance programs across the country. You can find a database of those resources on the NLIHC website.