Rep Felix and community housing advocates champion ‘Eviction Moratorium Clinics’ for BIPOC communities“We know that there are barriers when it comes to language, we know that there’s digital divides,” said Representative Felix. “We hope that by putting this clinic together we can really bridge those divides and get community members the help that they need.”
Published on September 1, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist
“We know that COVID-19 has worsened the housing crisis in our state and that landlords and tenants are facing really difficult choices,” said State Representative Leonela Felix (Democrat, District 61, Pawtucket) at a press conference in the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday. Felix acknowledged the hard work that RI Housing has been doing managing the Rent Relief RI program, but, “we need to acknowledged that those who are most in need – our BIPOC communities – are not being reached and are being left behind.
Community organizations such as the George Wiley Center, Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), the Center for Justice and Rhode Island Legal Services (RILS) have been filling the gaps in this work, said Representative Felix, “but it comes at a cost to them.”
“We need to make sure that those organizations that have not received funding are able to do this work and reach out communities when they need it the most.”
To that end Representative Felix wants to model an “Eviction Moratorium Clinic” modeled on the BIPOC vaccination clinics that were held to address vaccination rate disparities in BIPOC communities earlier this year.
The clinics will allow people and families not only to get information about rent relief, but to apply directly for relief with people who have an understanding of the language and cultures of affected communities.
“We know that there are barriers when it comes to language, we know that there’s digital divides,” said Representative Felix. “We hope that by putting this clinic together we can really bridge those divides and get community members the help that they need.”
Representative Felix called on the Governor and RI Housing to put the resources into reaching these communities through these Eviction Moratorium Clinics.
Last Thursday the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Center for Disease Control‘s eviction moratorium unconstitutional. Currently there is no moratorium banning evictions of any kind in the state. If you are a tenant, you cannot be evicted from your home until your case goes to court and a court order has been issued.
Boston instituted a city-wide eviction moratorium. So far Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee and General Assembly leadership has failed to take action.
The BIPOC vaccination clinics were organized, in part, by Dr Luis Daniel Muñoz, a candidate for Governor of Rhode Island. “Inequities can be addressed. Disparities can be lessened,” said Dr Muñoz. “The lessons we learned in the BIPOC mass vaccination weekends… is that community driven solutions are the right way to go [but] people need to be paid.
“It’s unfair that these communities continue to get exploited,” Said Dr Muñoz.
Right now the federal government has allotted $350 million in rent relief to Rhode Island, with barely $18 million dispersed so far. Governor Daniel McKee, at his recent press conference, said that the state has been streamlining the process and are willing to bend the rules somewhat in allocating funds, but this has been the policy for weeks now.l
“We can do better by listening to community based organizations,” said the George Wiley Center’s Camilo Viveiros. For instance, making sure “that we’re just throwing things online and expecting everyone to have access. The digital divide is real to low-income people in Rhode Island.
“It’s a public health crisis that is not class or race blind,” said Viveiros. “And we know that because of unemployment, we have to address the economic crisis.”
“Rent Relief Rhode Island should be as accessible as possible for tenants, for landlords,” said Terri Wright, an organizer with DARE. “Both tenants and landlords need help with the application process.
“We need more affordable housing and not evictions,” said Wright.
Governor Daniel McKee on Rent Relief and eviction:
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