Consumer Alert: The search for emergency housing in Rochester is far from easy

Consumer Alert: Search for emergency housing is far from easy

The News10NBC Team details breaking News, Traffic and Weather.

This Consumer Alert gives you a look at what life is like for all too many Rochester renters. You may remember last month we told you about two renters living without heat and hot water. Since that report aired, I’ve been trying to find emergency housing for them.

And it hasn’t been easy. Finding emergency housing is a full-time job. Now imagine you have kids, a job you need to go to daily so your kids can eat, and you live in a house with neither heat nor hot water.

That’s the case for a young mother we’ll call Cathy.  She asks that we hide her identity because she’s a domestic abuse survivor. Cathy and her four children live on the lower level of the rented home.  Her sister and her children live upstairs.  And not only do they have neither heat nor hot water, but they also have raw sewage that pours from a broken pipe onto the floor of their basement.

A day after my initial report aired, the city began repairing the home. The house has now been deemed uninhabitable, but where are these renters supposed to go while the house is being repaired?

I reached out to Rochester City Hall, and a spokesman told me when a rented home is deemed unsafe, Neighborhood and Business Development teams reach out to the renters and tells them to call 211 or call the Red Cross for housing assistance.  But Cathy says no one from NBD has reached out.

So, I made some calls.  First, the Red Cross.  A spokesman told me the city spokesperson was mistaken.  The Red Cross provides emergency housing assistance during natural disasters or house fires. It doesn’t provide rental assistance in situations like Cathy’s. Then I found the web page for 211 and clicked on Housing and Eviction Assistance. That took me to the Housing Council at Pathstone. But those folks don’t handle emergency housing either. They then directed me to the Monroe County Department of Human Services.

By that point, I’d been calling around for just over two hours.  And when I called the Monroe County Department of Human Services, I got a recording telling me to call back the next business day between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

So what happens if you need emergency housing after 3-pm or on the weekend?  The person who could provide that information didn’t get back to me before I went on air at 5 p.m. That’s what it’s like for our city’s poor who are at the mercy of a slumlord.

Cathy was able to find emergency shelter, but her sister and her children were not because they have a dog on no shelter is willing to take him.  So, she is still in that house with no heat or hot water, as the city works to repair that home.