Hannah Michelle Bussa
The pandemic has put a spotlight on the eviction crisis in Nebraska. However, according to Caitlin Cedfeldt, an attorney with the Housing Justice Project at Legal Aid of Nebraska, these underlying inequities are nothing new.
“It’s a multifaceted problem for sure, but one of the biggest causes of [Nebraska’s] ‘eviction problem’ is the lack of affordable housing,” she said.
This lack of affordable housing puts families in tough positions, even before the pandemic. With many living paycheck to paycheck, the COVID-19 outbreak has only made it that much more difficult for families to deal with unexpected costs such as illness.
“Families facing eviction often have terrible choices: pay this bill, or that bill, and hope the consequences do not completely put them out of a home, a job, or food,” Cedfeldt said.
This year, the consequences of eviction are much greater.
“If you get evicted, your choices are the street, a shelter, or moving in with other people,” Cedfeldt explained. “Shelters and moving in with other people are not very safe options right now, because if one person in the household is positive for COVID-19, the other household members are six times more likely to contract the virus.”
Thankfully, Legal Aid of Nebraska provides families and individuals with housing issues with free legal advice and counsel. Anyone facing eviction can seek counsel by calling the AccessLine at 1-877-250-2016.
“Often, our advice is very specific to the situation at hand,” Cedfeldt said. “It’s best not to try to Google the answer… it’s best to discuss it fully with a lawyer at Legal Aid.”
Recently, an Omaha individual – who wishes to remain anonymous – found himself doing just that.
He was facing eviction for the first time. After being laid off from a Fortune 500 company due to the pandemic, he didn’t know what to do. He had never thought about needing help before.
“My landlord was trying to evict me two days before Christmas,” he said. “[They] don’t care what time of year it is…[they] wouldn’t even accept payment; they just wanted me out.”
He had never been in that situation. He didn’t know what resources were available to him.
“It was very cruel, very mean, very personal, and very out of nowhere,” he said.
In this stressful time, he turned to Legal Aid of Nebraska.
“Caitlin put a stop to it all, and did her job amazingly well,” he said. “I would not be living in my apartment if it wasn’t for Legal Aid of Nebraska.”
Cedfeldt noted that tenants cannot be removed from a property without a court order.
She offered another piece of general advice: “If you are behind on rent, a CDC Declaration in connection with the CDC Order Temporarily Halting Evictions given to your landlord or their lawyer, may help prevent an eviction through January 31.”
The eviction problem in Nebraska is not over by any means. To support those facing eviction, consider donating to Legal Aid of Nebraska at their website and spreading the word.
“In your daily conversations, make a point to talk to others about how many Nebraskans are facing evictions,” Cedfeldt said.
Legal Aid of Nebraska is on social media. Sharing their posts can go a long way in raising awareness.
“We appreciate help in spreading the word about this crisis,” Cedfeldt said.