Wyoming’s ERAP Lags Behind in Finding Housing for Homeless People
Since the Emergency Rental Assistance Program began in Wyoming at the end of April 2021, it has dolled out over $30 million, mostly to landlords, to help people struggling to pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ERAP also includes letters of intent (LOI), started by the Department of Family Services (DFS) at the beginning of 2022, and allows homeless people to give the letter to landlords showing DFS will be able to cover their rent for the next three months at least.
While 1,231 LOIs have been given out, only 233 of those people have been able to find housing.
Of those that have been given out, 431 have expired, as the LOIs are only good for three months, with only 17 people resubmitting after the expiration date.
Kristie Arneson, a Senior Administrator with the DFS, said that there are a variety of reasons why few of the people given LOIs have found houses.
"I think we didn't do a good job when the letters of intent rolled out, providing education and ensuring that the landlord's community was aware of what that was," Arneson said. "I don't want to speak for landlords, I think in some instances across the state there are areas that we know housing's just difficult to find. Whether because of how much it is or not available. There's plenty of communities around the state where there's a shortage...I think we have heard that there's a potential fear that once, someone's eligible for 18 months after that then there is no more assistance from this program...once a person might exhaust this program or once the funding does end, the hope is the tenants are able to pay their rent. But I do know that is a concern across the board."
Throughout March and April, the DFS held town hall meetings for landlords to attend and provide feedback about the ERAP and the LOIs, and in total, they had 257 people attend, though it is unclear how many of those may have been repeated attendance.
From those town halls, they were able to get emails of landlords to get a list of the people they could reach out to for both ERAP and the LOIs.
Arneson said she hasn't heard of any landlords denying people housing from an LOI because the aid will run out, but that there is some concern among landlords whether or not tenants will be able to pay after the assistance runs out.
"I don't know how real it is," Arneson said. "I do know that in our town halls that our landlords have been nothing but seeming like they're wanting to help either the tenants they already have or potential tenants. But I also know it is a business for them as well."