Several activist groups, including VOCAL New York, Citizen Action of New York, NYACLU, and the Rochester Citywide Tenant Union, held a virtual town hall focused on the well-being of Rochester’s underserved communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jasmin Reggler from the tenants' union chastised Monroe County and the city of Rochester leadership for their treatment of the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic. She said the homeless population is very vulnerable to the virus, but has been an afterthought.
“With everything that is being shut down, they are being forced into overcrowded shelters, and they face another barrier because landlords are now not showing or renting apartments,” Reggler said. “So homeless folks are just stuck in these overcrowded shelters.”
Regglar, who also works for St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality, said that homeless shelters need additional facilities to handle their demand.Without them, social distancing is not possible.
She also argued that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not done enough to protect renters during the outbreak. Cuomo halted evictions for 90 days, but Reggler sees that as a stopgap and is advocating for total rent forgiveness.
“Because after that 90-day moratorium is lifted, people can still face evictions or they’ll face paying the back rent for three months,” said Reggler. “If people can’t afford it now, they’re not going to be able to afford it three months from now.”
When asked whose rent should be forgiven first, Reggler said it depends on how deep the crisis goes.
“You handle the people who are most affected by it now and then you see if it needs to be applied to all tenants,” said Reggler. “But definitely those who have lost their jobs or not bringing in income. We need to make sure that they’re not losing their housing.”
Reggler says the tenants union polled its members this week and half of them say they don’t know how they’ll pay April’s rent and she expects the situation to get much worse.