A new housing helpline has been launched to connect undocumented and mixed-status families in New York with legal advice and rent relief to help them stay in their homes.

The helpline is part of the new Know Your Rights campaign, launched by Legal Aid, Enterprise, Make the Road NY, RiseBoro, CAMBA and Robin Hood Foundation in conjunction with the launch of the states Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).

The collaborative effort, funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, will raise awareness amongst immigrant tenants about their rights to stay in their homes, despite financial hardship or immigration status, and of the resources available to support them.Many immigrant New Yorkers have been ineligible for prior state rent relief programs.

A core part of the new campaign is a housing helpline  212-298-3490 which will connect tenants with resources and funding available through programs including ERAP and FASTEN (Funds & Services for Tenants Experiencing Need).

The helpline will exclusively serve undocumented and mixed-status families, who were previously excluded from earlier versions of the states rent relief program, and will provide tenants with access to legal support to prevent evictions.

The helpline will also assist New Yorks noncitizen and undocumented renters in accessing up-to-date information on basic and COVID-19-related housing rights and protections.

Legal Aid Society Civil Law Reform Unit Attorney-in-Charge Judith Goldiner said immigrant families were particularly vulnerable to landlord harassment and informal eviction tactics, including threats around the disclosure of immigration status.

We expect the application process to be somewhat complicated and potentially confusing for many members of our client communities, and we look forward to providing direct assistance to New Yorkers to ensure their housing stability, she said.

The campaign will also offer trainings for people and organizations offering the latest information on housing rights and available resources for vulnerable tenants, and will include a marketing campaign to ensure undocumented households know of the resources and where to access help. 

Enterprise Community Partners Public Housing and Vulnerable Populations Director Michelle Mulcahy said it was imperative New Yorkers at risk of eviction knew their rights, as well as the resources available to help them.

She applauded state and local leaders for ensuring much-needed federal relief funds were available to the states undocumented communities through New Yorks new aid portal, as well as through FASTEN.

Now, we must take additional steps to raise awareness of these resources so that communities with the highest barriers to accessing aid can receive it, she said.

New York City has contracted with organizations in each borough who can assist both tenants and landlords in completing applications for ERAP. The full list of community-based organizations by county can be found here.

Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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