With eviction moratoriums set to expire at the end of July, tenants who are behind on their rent will need lots of help this month. San Antonio Legal Services Association (SALSA) is working hard to help meet this need with clinics every Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at their offices at the Resource Center at the Haven for Hope campus located at 1231 W. Martin Street.
For renters who are behind on rent and fear eviction at the end of July, SALSA can help with both legal advice in tenants’ rights and assistance in getting that back rent paid by helping tenants complete applications for the Texas Rent Relief Program.
“We want to ensure that the community has access to the relief that they need,” said SALSA Housing Fellow Rick Gonzalez. “Nobody was expecting the pandemic to hit us as hard as it did, and we know people who were renting fell behind and they need this help, and it’s available.”
Gonzalez said many people are not aware that a billion dollars in aid were set aside through the Texas Rent Relief Program to help Texans with rent relief during the pandemic. The fund is also available to help residents with paying past-due utility bills. A large percentage of rent relief funds remain unused, even as Texans all over the state are struggling to pay rent and utilities. Gonzalez said that the use of the fund has been limited because renters have not heard of the fund and because the rollout of the application process has been slow and complicated.
SALSA’s Wednesday clinics will help with that process by providing renters assistance in applying for the rent relief program, guiding them through a checklist of which documents they will need for the application, and determining if they qualify for the rent relief program.
SALSA is encouraging those in need of rent relief to visit the clinic to obtain assistance in completing the application rather than applying through the program’s website because any small error can cause long delays of up to a month or more in the already slow application process. SALSA recommends that renters who want to apply for rent relief bring a copy of their lease agreement and have some way of showing how much rent they owe, as well as income documentation.
“Our end goal is always to prevent homelessness, and that’s what we’re striving for,” Gonzalez said. “We want to reach as many people as we can and give them a shot at paying their past-due rent or past-due utilities so that they can remain housed. People have already suffered enough with the pandemic and carrying this debt around is just creating more issues for them.”
SALSA, originally the Community Justice Program, was founded nearly twenty years ago by Justice Phylis Speedlin and Judge Karen Pozza when the two recognized the need for pro bono legal services in San Antonio. SALSA maintains its strong ties with the San Antonio Bar Association and relies on the generosity of a large pool of volunteers, both attorneys and non-attorneys, to provide help in a variety of civil legal fields.
To learn more about SALSA or to volunteer, visit the SALSA website.