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Legal Aid Providers, Rochester State Democrats Provides Help for the City’s Tenants

by Tyronda James

The Democratic Delegation of the Greater Rochester Region announce partnerships to assist in tenant evictions. Photo provided.

As the New York State moratorium on evictions soon comes to its ending May 1, there is hope and help available to city tenants at risk of evictions and in need of legal services.

At a press conference, April 23, Democratic Delegation of the Greater Rochester Region, along with legal service providers from the Telesca Center for Justice announced new funding for the Tenant Legal Defense program. 

“Housing protections are essential if we are going to recover from COVID-19,” said Senator Samra Brouk. “I am proud that the New York State budget includes funding for the Tenant Defense Program as well as other essential supports for renters and homeowners,” said Senator Samra Brouk. “Housing protections are essential if we are going to recover from COVID-19.” 

The partners involved in the program include Legal Aid Society of Rochester, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Volunteer Legal Services Project, and Empire Justice Center. The organizations will  receive funding to increase access to legal representation in eviction matters, address systemic issues and respond to related legal issues to help families stay housed and avoid homelessness. 

Brouk said in the wake of a global pandemic, housing should be made easier for people to remain in, not harder. 

Rochester’s housing crisis did not begin with the pandemic. Assemblymember Demond Meeks said the pandemic exacerbated several already existing crises, one being housing insecurity. He said families at times lost everything, appearing in courts without access to decent representation.

“Families in marginalized communities were subjected to violent evictions after enduring years of insufferable living conditions,” Meeks said.  “While Rochester made too much news this year because of our eviction crisis, there are many hardworking and fearless advocates who stand by these families when they need assistance.” 

Meeks said organizations like Legal Aid Society of Rochester, Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc and the Empire Justice Center are just some of the heroes in the fight against unjust evictions. “Because of their tireless work, tenants know their rights and are able to use the law to keep the most basic of necessities, a stable safe home.”

Senator Jeremy Cooney said the decision was made in this budget process to prioritize vulnerable populations during COVID and ensure that familie didn’t lose access to stable housing.

“This funding is not only a way to create fairness in an imbalanced court system,” Cooney said. “But also a way to keep our neighbors in their homes and create avenues to recover from this pandemic.”

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