MILWAUKEE COUNTY — Now that the federal eviction moratorium has ended, thousands of Milwaukee tenants who are behind on rent could soon face homelessness.
Some of the largest homeless shelters in the Milwaukee area say they are already at or close to full capacity. Organizations are urging those facing eviction to immediately reach out for rent assistance before it’s too late.
David Laws knows the pain of being evicted after it happened to him last year. He said he’s been living on the streets ever since.
“It's rough, you've gotta come over here to eat, use the bathroom, shower, change your clothes, it's rough,” he said.
With the end of the federal eviction moratorium, federal surveys show roughly 16,000 Wisconsinites and 11 million Americans are at risk of losing their homes.
"We're full 365 days a year, so there's always a need in our community,” said Philip Connelly.
Connelly is the housing director at the Guest House of Milwaukee. Connelly and his team are pivoting rooms and resources to make way for an increased need.
“Currently, we started a new program called the ‘Community Cots Program’ where we re-purposed an area in our shelter to be able to provide more space for individuals that are homeless in our community,” he said.
Eric Collins-Dyke works for Milwaukee County’s Homeless Services program.
"The bubble is bursting on housing insecurity for sure,” he said.
Collins-Dyke said before the pandemic, there were about 1,000 homeless people in Milwaukee County and another 5,000 to 6,000 who didn’t have a permanent home. He said if you’re facing eviction and homelessness, do not pack up just yet.
"Do not leave where you're living; reach out for help,” he said.
The United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County said it’s been preparing for this for months by getting federal and state resources ready to help those who need rental assistance but neglected to inquire during the moratorium.
Krystina Kohler said people who were financially impacted by the pandemic can receive assistance up to a year’s worth of missed rent payments.
"They can get connected to legal assistance, legal aid,” she said. “We've been pushing for free pro bono lawyers for eviction cases in court.”
Kohler said anyone facing eviction should visit RentHelpMKE.org or their hotline at 414-895-7368.