Watch CBS News

'Panic Mode': Eviction Crisis Begins In Chelsea, City Hit Hard By Coronavirus

CHELSEA (CBS) - Starting this week, eviction proceedings can resume in Massachusetts. A Chelsea community group that used to help a few families a week is now in "panic mode."

"Chelsea remains in ground zero we will not be able to recover today and we will not be able to recover for years to come," said Gladys Vega, executive director of the Chelsea Collaborative.

It's been less than a week since the eviction moratorium expired. The result, the start of an eviction crisis in one of the already hardest hit communities.

"Tension has been building up for months, right. Families have been dreading the expiration of the moratorium. Our families are panicking, you know it's almost like this protection was lifted and everything is like chaos," said Norieliz DeJesus, the director of campaign and policy for the Chelsea Collaborative.

The Chelsea Collaborative is one of the organizations trying to help these families from the bustling food pantry on Sixth Street to now fielding the most difficult of calls.

"He said I'm nervous about the winter," Vega said. "He's sleeping inside of an old ambulance that he bought."

Norieliz DeJesus is the one answering the calls.

"It's insane how drastic and how inhumane the situations are becoming," she said.

The Chelsea Collaborative says it's gone from three to four emergency housing cases a week, to 11 in just three days. "And stay tuned to tomorrow," Vega said.

"It is panic mode—on both levels, on our housing crisis and our concerns for Covid spread," DeJesus said.

The families often hopping from one bad situation to the next.

"We've seen as many as four or five families in a two bedroom and it's almost impossible to maintain any type of social distancing in those types of situations. And impossible to stay off the streets," DeJesus added.

"I feel at times that all we are doing is passing the bucket or doing a Band-Aid because we cannot find affordable housing for them, they are not yet working so in the meantime they are getting evicted," Vega said.

The best the Chelsea Collaborative can do right now, even with help from the city, is hotel stays.

"(She was) sleeping with her 3-year-old boy in the car and she has been doing that for three days. (We) immediately we placed her in a hotel," Vega said. "And those are the ones that we hear of imagine the ones where people are afraid because they are undocumented and not able to tell us."

The answer, seemingly unattainable.

"It's almost like wiping out all of our small communities of color," DeJesus said.

"We asked the governor for additional funding for our community but many communities are going to be asking the same," Vega added.

The fight for one, still strong.

"It takes a toll on you when what you're seeing isn't seen by the state or even if it is seen by the state it's not as urgent to the state as it is to your organization or the people on the ground," Vega said.

"We need more support, we need the state to realize it's been way too long of a wait there's no more negotiation time we need to pass protection for tenants we need to do something so that our tenants are not in the street," DeJesus said.

Her advice to families, if possible is to,"...not to move although the courts are open they should stay in their apartments it is much harder for us to find resources or shelters or any type of emergency housing once they're out of their home. If you do have a court hearing coming up you can reach out to the Chelsea Collaborative until then stay home and stay out until we can figure out what to do," she said.

At the food pantry, there will now be a legal clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays aiming to help families with these eviction court dates.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.