We may not realize it, but many people are “one paycheck away from being homeless.” Unfortunately this is the reality for many of those we see at LCBH. They can pay for rent, utility bills, childcare costs, food, medicines, etc. only as long as their next paycheck lasts. For many individuals, a single paycheck can mean the difference between being housed and being homeless. At LCBH, the attorneys and social workers understand that being “at risk of homelessness” is rarely ever an isolated issue and is often related to greater issues of economics, mental health, familial stability, etc. Faced with situations in any of these areas, an individual can go from paying their bills on time to facing homelessness without the help of an external source.
Rachel Jones was on maternity leave when she arrived at LCBH with a 5-day notice for eviction due to non-payment of rent. Rachel is a mother to a happy-go-lucky nine-year-old son named Devon and recently gave birth to her daughter Grace. Together the family lives in a two-bedroom apartment that she has been renting for the last several years. Rachel’s top priority is taking care of her two children and her full-time job.
Rachel’s employer does not offer paid maternity leave. After Rachel gave birth to her daughter, she had planned to return to work almost immediately, but due to some issues, she ended up needing two and half months to recover from childbirth (and to take care of her newborn daughter). Rachel used up her minimal savings and sick time, but after two months of unpaid leave, Rachel fell behind on rent.
Rachel met with one of the LCBH attorneys who counseled Rachel on her limited options for the pending eviction. The attorney also referred Rachel to the Supportive Services team at LCBH. While sources of emergency funding are extremely limited, the Supportive Services team felt Rachel might be a good candidate and assisted Rachel with filling out the paperwork and answering the many questions about the family’s situation and their financial barriers.
While waiting for a response, the team worked with Rachel to help her communicate with her management company to ask if they would put the eviction on hold until a decision on the emergency funding could be made. Luckily, Rachel had an understanding landlord. After a couple of weeks, the emergency funds were granted, and Rachel was back to work, as well. The landlord was paid the rent, and the eviction case was dismissed.
Rachel’s story ends well due mostly to luck. While we were able to connect her to emergency funding and assist her with communications with her landlord, there are much bigger issues that need to be addressed. Had Rachel been evicted, she and her daughters would likely have ended up homeless and experiencing the horrors outlined in Michael Desmond’s recent book “Evicted.” Mr. Desmond’s research eloquently shows that eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty. In a recent interview he explained:
“Eviction causes loss. You lose not only your home but often your possessions, which are either put on the sidewalk or taken to a mover's storage facilities. Many tenants can't make payments, and when they don't, their stuff just gets hauled to the dump.
“You lose your neighborhood and your community. Your children often lose their school, and we have good evidence that workers lose their jobs.
“Eviction also comes with a record. If you're registered through the court, that not only prevents you from accessing decent housing in good neighborhoods because many landlords refuse to take you. Public housing authorities also turn you away when you apply for public housing. That means we're denying that aid to the people who need it most.
“Then there’s the toll eviction takes on your spirit. We have evidence that moms who are evicted report higher rates of depressive symptoms two years later. So you add all that up, take a step back and look at all those consequences, and you have to conclude eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty. It's making things worse.”
The Supportive Services team followed up with Rachel and her children a few months later. She is doing great - she even recently got a promotion at work, so things are looking up. Though she is still living paycheck-to-paycheck, she feels grateful and relieved that she is able to continue to provide safe and stable housing for herself, Devon, and Grace.