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'I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place' | Evictions to resume in Louisiana

Many renters lost jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown and some have not been able to pay rent since March.

NEW ORLEANS — Fair housing advocates are fearful there will soon be an avalanche of evictions in Louisiana after a moratorium on evictions across the state expired on Monday.

Renter Johnny Amos has lived in New Orleans' Bywater area for the last eight years, but he's not sure how much longer he will be allowed to stay in his rental unit.

"I might be out on the street," he said.

Amos lost his part-time job in the hospitality industry when the economy shut down. He is now three months behind in his rent.

"If I do have to be evicted, I wouldn't know what to actually do," Amos said. "Where am I going to put my stuff? I'm not able to pay no storage. You understand. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place."

Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center Executive Director Cashauna Hill says there are a lot of renters, like Amos, now at risk of being evicted.

"It is unfortunate that we as a state haven't yet had the will to figure out a way to protect the folks who just did what they were supposed to do, who stayed home to try and keep us all safe," Hill said.

He predicts an avalanche of evictions, which could also put people in danger from COVID-19.

“It is likely that we will be sending people into crowded courtrooms for eviction procedures, putting people at risk of going into crowded homeless shelters which really could them spark a second wave of infections,” Hill said.

Kym Valene owns rental property across New Orleans. Valene said she has been working with tenants who are behind in the rent, but she says she has not been able to evict problem renters who are dealing drugs and engaging in illegal activity because of the moratorium.

"Everybody had to work with everybody. This is a pandemic and it's unprecedented. But what happens in the real world is certain people take advantage of the situation," Valene said. 

Back in the Bywater, Amos says he hopes to find a job soon so he can pay his back rent.

"I do hospitality. I cook as well. So, I'm trying restaurants now. Hopefully, something will turn up," Amos said. 

First City Clerk of Court in New Orleans is extending its hours for the next three days to expedite eviction filings. The office will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

Some property owners who have federal dollars backing their loans or accept Section 8 vouchers will still be blocked from evicting tenants until Aug. 25.

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