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Las Vegas man chooses homelessness over accruing pandemic debt

Las Vegas man chooses homelessness over accruing pandemic debt
Las Vegas man chooses homelessness over accruing pandemic debt
Posted at 10:15 AM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 15:00:52-04

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Struggling renters in Las Vegas were happy to hear that the federal and state eviction moratoriums have been extended for a few more months, protecting them from being kicked out of their homes for failing to make payments during this pandemic.

But for some, the news is already too late.

Brian Ward worked as a delivery driver prior to the pandemic, but health concerns surrounding the virus forced him to step away from his job last March. He's been applying for financial help from the state of Nevada ever since. But when he didn't hear back for months, he says he had no choice but to move out of his home and live out of his mini-van.

"There’s a rental moratorium, right? And I actually took advantage of that for a couple of months. But then I realized accruing more debt is just stupid. I still managed to have other bills besides rent, so I gave up my apartment and decided to reside in my vehicle," said Ward.

Despite the protections provided by state and federal eviction moratoriums, Ward is choosing to be homeless rather than continuing to rack up debt in the one-bedroom condo he currently can't afford.

"The moratorium, I think, was a bad idea, to begin with. I mean, you're deferring costs to the future that, even in the long run when everything smooths out, your generations ahead are all going to have to pay for this. The people who are benefiting from the moratorium are the ones who are going to be hurt most by the taxes and the rising costs and interest because of it. So, it’s just a bad idea all around," said Ward.

But, Brian says the bigger issue is the state's lack of a response to his cries for help. For months, he says his applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Cares Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), have largely gone unanswered.

"Literally thousands of phone calls. Most times it’s busy, hours on wait. There’s been more than one occasion where I was on hold for seven hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds, at which point they automatically terminate your call," said Ward.

Knowing he's not alone, Ward now worries that Nevada will be facing a huge wave of homelessness in a few short months. He's just ahead of the curve.

"It’s kind of a really bad situation. Think about it, because rents have gone up, property values have gone up because of how many people are relocating here. It’s not going to be a pretty situation. There’s going to be a lot of people looking for a new place all of a sudden. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. I’ll be doing it from my vehicle," said Ward with a chuckle.

KTNV reached out to DETR but is still waiting for a response.

DISCLAIMER: KTNV first heard about Brian Ward's story through his property manager, who is a relative of a KTNV employee.

This story was originally published by Ross DiMattei at KTNV.