SAN ANTONIO — On June 1, eviction cases can begin moving forward in Bexar County Justice of the Peace courts, and thousands of local tenants may be teetering on the brink of being homeless.
At a daily briefing on Friday, County Judge Nelson Wolff said millions of dollars are set aside to help those that are struggling, but the legal system will be handling cases.
"I'm sure they're going to have a backlog and we'll encourage them to be as lenient as they can and reach some sort of balance between the landlord and the person," Wolff said.
"If there are folks that are, in good faith, working with the landlords to get back out of arrears, if they have been affected by COVID-19, we're making sure the resources are connected to them," Mayor Ron Nirenberg added. "We have to make sure they have the information about how to get into the emergency management fund pipeline."
That information about protections and help for renters and those having trouble paying their mortgage can be found here.
One local woman who used to be homeless said local leaders should be planning now to keep people safe if they end up being evicted and living in their cars.
For months, advocate Molly Wright said she has been trying to convince the city to create a safe space in a secure parking lot where people can escape the mean streets.
"It was extremely dangerous for me to be on the streets without a place to go," Wright said.
Remembering her troubled time, Wright said she knows the newly homeless will be frightened.
"They're not going to know what to do. They're not going to know where to go. They don't have a safe place just to get a few hours of safe sleep overnight," Wright said. "People will be scared. They will be frightened. They're not going to know where to hide. They're going to be freaking out, basically."
Wright has been demanding help for tenants who have already been faced with eviction actions, and she is working with the local faith community to do more.
She said so far, Last Chance Ministries on the west side has offered up its parking lot, a secure area with a fence, lighting, facilities inside and out, and trash collection. Wright said it would be a last chance for safety for families who might find themselves living in their cars.
"We just need to provide these people with safe overnight parking," she said.
Wright and Rev. Jimmy Robles talked with city staffers about their plan late Friday, but no decisions were made.
The city said they are still working on plans to keep people from being evicted, and they are scheduled to talk again on Tuesday, just one week from the start of court proceedings.
The city provided the following statement Friday night:
"Given the concerns about households becoming homeless once eviction protections are lifted, the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and SARAH have been working diligently to identify appropriate resources to prevent homelessness and by expanding current homeless assistance efforts through new federal funding sources.
"Our highest priority is to keep people in their homes, and if they do experience homelessness, to provide the necessary wrap-around services and resources to quickly get them rehoused.
"For some added context:
"The City of San Antonio has been in communication with Ms. Wright to collaborate on safe shelter solutions for people experiencing homelessness. Ms. Wright is presently working with two churches that have offered their parking lots as overnight locations for individuals and families experiencing homelessness to sleep in their cars at these lots. At the request of Ms. Wright, Pastor Jimmy Robles (Last Chance Ministries) and Pastor Mark (First Unitarian Church), and the City of San Antonio Dept. of Human Services scheduled a conference call for this evening to discuss the proposal.
"We are appreciative of their willingness to provide a helping hand to individuals experiencing homelessness."
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