Dallas – Juana, a 52-year-old Mexican immigrant who has lived in the city’s northwest for more than a decade, carefully wrapped photos of her family decorating the walls of a one-bedroom apartment when the phone went rang. ..
It was around 3pm and his landlord gave him to pay him around $ 12,000 in rent until 5pm. The next morning, the owner presented the police with a warrant for possession, expelling Juana and her husband from the house they had shared for almost a quarter of their lives.
“My hands were shaking,” Juana said in Spanish, remembering the moment she picked up her cell phone. She was hopeful – the phone might be the answer to her prayer for emergency help – but she was also scared. “Once we were kicked out, we didn’t know where to sleep the next night. “
The call came from Sara Albay, Relocation Services Specialist at Catholic Charities in Dallas.
“Tell me I was approved,” pleaded Juana. “I heard in her voice that she was happy, so I thought that was good news.”
Alrubaye said the agency would cover Juana’s rent. In fact, she could come and get a check as soon as she was ready. Juana looked at the clock. She did not own a car, so getting on the bus to and from Catholic charities could take up to two hours.
“I rushed to the bus stop and prayed all the time,” Juana said.
At least 3.4 million people nationwide could be deported within weeks, according to a June Census Bureau investigation.
As of May 31, state and local dealers had provided only about $ 1.5 billion of the $ 46 billion Congress had allocated for emergency rental assistance programs, according to the US Treasury. The program will help households financially affected by the pandemic pay rent and utilities, and prevent the wave of peasants standing when the federal moratorium on peasant evictions ends on July 31. I’m.
When time is of the essence, most states and cities have partnered with community organizations to reach affected areas like Juana, where language and technology barriers prevent some tenants from accessing help. According to Ashley Brandage, executive director of housing stability at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, another nonprofit working with the city, Dallas has received $ 40 million through the program, including Catholic Charities and others. We have partnered with 15 non-profit organizations.
“We are spending money faster than we can get it,” Brundage said. “But we know there are still pockets for people who don’t yet know the support is there.”
For Juana, help ran out of time.
Fifteen minutes before the 5 pm deadline, she was still at least 30 minutes from the apartment. She called the rental desk and begged for more time, but didn’t expect a break. At 5:15 p.m. Juana was out of breath and rushed into the office – and was greeted with cheers. She was able to protect her house.
Living in the shadows
Juana and her husband arrived in the United States legally 13 years ago, but they exceeded their visa because their new visa was refused. As she lives illegally here, Juana asked Stateline not to publish her last name or her husband’s name.
According to the Texas Rent Relief Program website, tenants who apply for an emergency rental relief program do not need to provide a Social Security number to prove they are legally in the country.
The couple have always lived from paycheck to paycheck and earned very little to cover all of their living and medical expenses. Juana had been on dialysis for almost 10 years until August of last year when she received a kidney transplant.
The American Association of Kidney Disease Patients helped Juana pay for her health insurance, but quit after the surgery and left a $ 1,400 / month drug bill to prevent her body from rejecting the transplanted organs. ..
“I didn’t expect to have a kidney, especially because of my immigrant status,” Juana said. “It was unexpected, but we put it back in God’s hands and made it work as much as we could.”
By this time, the family was already behind on rent. In April 2020, Juana and her husband were infected with COVID-19. Juana suspects that she may have given it to her husband after being arrested at a dialysis clinic. It took my husband two months to fully recover and another month to find a job after being laid off due to illness.
In Texas, about 80% of the 455,000 households with stagnant rents are low-income or made up of people of color. According to the National Equity Atlas, a data and policy tool run by the University of Southern California’s Equity Research Institute and research firm PolicyLink, Texas has 13% of tenants behind on rent. , about as much as the national rates. ..
Before the pandemic, the proportion of renters in Texas and nationwide was around 7%, according to a 2017 U.S. housing survey.
Go to court
At the end of August, a few days after Juana was released after the transplant, a policeman in an English-speaking uniform knocked on the door. The police told her that she and her husband had 24 hours to pay about $ 5,000 in rent or to be evicted.
Still recovering from the operation, Juana got dressed, slowly and painfully descended the stairs, through the parking lot to the administration office.
The clerk noticed her discomfort and asked what was wrong. Juana told them that the police had just told her that she had to leave within 24 hours. She explained that she had a payment plan with her manager. They told him that the manager was no longer working there.
According to Juana, the new manager said that Juana and her husband would be kicked out if they did not pay the full amount.
The following month, an investment company that owns a complex of hundreds of houses where the couple live requested the eviction of the peasant farm. Juana’s husband, who was the only person named by court order, appeared in November before a judge deporting the peasants. During the hearing, the judge asked if he and Juana were affected by COVID-19 and spoke about the state’s moratorium on evictions. The judge also said it was up to the owner to establish a repayment plan.
Juana said the new manager will not receive the $ 200 or $ 300 paid every two weeks. “She wanted full or full payment,” Juana said.
By February, the couple had borrowed more than $ 10,000 in backrent. Juana recovered from the operation and was trying to find as much help as she could. Then one day she heard about the Dallas Rental Assistance Program. With the help of people from the rental desk, Juana requested relief but was turned down.
After being rejected, Juana’s owner initiated yet another eviction proceeding against her and her husband. In early June, Juana joined her husband and appeared before Justice of the Peace Sarah Martinez. They arrived at 9 a.m. and were taken to a small office which indicated to them where the judge’s staff could find free legal help. But Juana told Stateline that the group she called had told her she was not eligible as an illegal immigrant.
Martinez said she couldn’t help them because the state moratorium on evicting peasants had ended, and according to Juana, it was entirely up to the owner to continue the peasants.
If Juana lived in almost every other state, she might have been protected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium, which lasts until July 31. However, Texas ended the moratorium this spring and declared the CDC’s order invalid.
“I told him I would not miss any payments until COVID-19 rushes into our house,” Juana recalled during the hearing. “We didn’t invite him. We did not go looking for him.
According to court documents, the judge ruled in favor of the owner and set a date of June 9 for the company to file a property warrant.
Juana cried all the way home. Her husband tried to comfort her, promising to find them a place to live temporarily. That afternoon they rented a storage room and started packing. When Univision’s “Contigo en la Comunidad Dallas” began Sunday morning, Juana was filling the box with the television on in the background.
A segment focused on rental support. Juana didn’t pay much attention to knowing she had been rejected, but when a United Way representative in Dallas said money was available for immigrants living in the country without legal permission , she said she was screen where I picked up the phone and took a picture.
She learned that Catholic charity was helping people apply for her area and called them. When she told them she was facing a property arrest warrant in two weeks, they told her to show up to a pop-up event in North Dallas next Saturday.
Juana couldn’t sleep on Friday night. Instead, she prayed and counted as the plane entered and left the nearby Dallas Love Field airport. Shortly before sunrise, she tells him that she should wake her husband and leave immediately to beat the expected crowd.
There were already two couples in front of them when they appeared at 7 a.m.
Juana and her husband were greeted by a Spanish speaking volunteer who helped them check their documents and complete the application form. It took them less than 45 minutes to manage her rental relief and get her money to pay her water bill.
“It was very easy and everyone made me feel very welcome,” said Juana. “I call them my guardian angels because I got lost without them.”
Juana told them about his pending possession warrant next Friday, and they promised to facilitate his request and continue to report any progress to him. The only document Juana and her husband lost when filing the application was a letter certifying employment, explaining how COVID-19 was financially affected.
“We had hope, but if we were rejected again we were mentally ready,” Juana said. “But I knew God was watching over us. “
As she was packing, she recalled all the memories she and her husband shared 700 square feet in their apartment. The day she learned about the transplant, the time her children and grandchildren came from Mexico to fall asleep sprawled across the living room floor. When the ceiling leaked, leaving peanut-shaped stains on the plasterboard of the dining room table, the owner didn’t fix it.
“We don’t have much, but this is our home,” Juana said.
“This is where our church is. You can take a bus anywhere in the city. Sams, Wal-Mart, and Target are there and you can easily walk around when your husband is at work. You can buy groceries. “She added.
“I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” Juana said. “This is the place where God wants us to live. It’s more obvious to me than ever.
Juana, 52, of Dallas, faced eviction by paying a backrent of nearly $ 12,000. In June, Juana and her husband received money from the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program through a local non-profit organization. If they had not been bailed out, they would have been evicted from their apartment.