Jonah is 10, and we have lived in part of a four-unit house on a residential street for nearly four years. It’s quiet, and lots of the homes nearby look like ours. I was a teacher for 13 years before I fell and fractured my spine in 2019, leaving me with a limp and chronic pain. The school district let me go, because it couldn’t accommodate my disability needs. Now, I receive monthly payments for my disability. I want to start teaching again, though. Kids bring me so much joy.
Reliving those happy memories has been a much-needed crutch for me, because the coronavirus is devastating me. I feel incredibly sick. I’ve had a blinding migraine, and it’s hard to get out of bed. My doctor put me on a strong dose of the steroid prednisone and cough medication, and I’ve started to use an inhaler. But my body hurts. I’ve been coughing up blood. Even though I have Medicaid, I’ve been avoiding going to the emergency room because my son would be alone. My ex-husband lives across town and works as a driver and on the dock for ABF Freight. My beloved mother died three years ago, and although I’m close to my stepfather, he lives in Arkansas. My son is doing virtual school, but he has to stop and nap at times, and then catch up on what he missed when he wakes up. Our goal is to get through each hour without him having a meltdown.
It has been very hard to get through this pandemic with only disability payments and child support from my ex-husband. It became even harder in July when the company dispensing my disability checks misplaced my paperwork and stopped sending me money. This caused me to fall behind on my $775 monthly rent. I even connected my property manager with my disability claims handler, who confirmed all of this. My property manager said he would work with me to find a solution. I felt enormously relieved.
But in mid-November, a few days after we talked, I opened my door to find an eviction notice ordering me to move out in 10 days. I was shocked. It said I had violated my lease by leaving trash on the back deck, leaving appliances in the common area, failing to clean up after my dog, and refusing to communicate. None of those are reasons to make my family homeless during a pandemic, especially when the property manager said he would work with me.
I had to plead my case in court a month later. The judges in Jackson County, Mo., where I live, are so committed to hearing evictions and bending to demands of landlords that they’re carrying out hearings on the Internet and by conference call. During my hearing, my property manager called me a “stellar” tenant. So why are the property owners trying to make us homeless? I think they just want to get their money faster.
Like most people facing eviction, I didn’t have a lawyer to represent me. But my landlord’s lawyer, Julie Anderson, represents a lot of the big property owners in Kansas City. Apparently she is so good at helping kick people out of their homes that my property manager left a glowing review on her law firm’s website recently. “I just used them for my first eviction and that went pretty smooth,” he wrote. “Appreciate you guys. Thanks!”
It’s easy to guess that the judge sided with my landlord, MKD Properties, LLC. The judge ordered me to pay $65 in server process fees, $575 in attorneys’ fees, and $3,650 for double rent from October 21 to December 22, which comes to $4,290. (Should I be grateful the judge isn’t making me pay $6,080 in late charges that my landlord had originally asked for?) I have no idea where I’m supposed to find all that money. My past due bills for electricity, heat, and medical expenses have grown, too, and my heat was shut off for some time.
In the middle of all this, I got the coronavirus. I had taken all the proper precautions. I wore a mask. I washed my hands. I went in public only once a month to get my prescriptions at Walmart. A few days before Christmas, my son visited my ex-husband, who likely passed the coronavirus to my son. Then, when my son came back to my apartment, he passed it to me. My ex-husband tested positive shortly after that. I have to laugh at this. Now my ex-husband and I have Covid-19 in common, too.
I tried to stall our eviction around New Year’s Eve by filing a declaration form from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the courts and my landlord. The CDC ordered a ban on evictions back in September to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to avoid having evicted tenants crowd together in shelters. But it only applies to evictions for nonpayment of rent, and it expires on March 31. Plus, renters have to know about it in order to potentially benefit from it, which seems unfair.
I called up the people who carry out evictions, civil process deputies, and I asked them not to kick us out. They told me that because we have Covid-19, they would not step foot in our apartment. But they could change their minds. My lease is up in May, and given all that I’ve put up with, I want to find a new place to live. But I need more time, which I don’t think I’ll get. In early January, my landlord’s lawyer filed a motion to deny my CDC declaration and to go ahead with the eviction. It’s just a matter of time before the deputies show up at my door to change the locks. And I’m still so, so sick.
I haven’t gotten out of my apartment much, so I haven’t seen signs of a looming eviction crisis in person, but I see it on Facebook. I’m part of community pages where people help animals find foster families, a hobby of mine. And what I’m seeing instead are lots of posts about evictions and homelessness. There are so many homeless people in my area who don’t need to be, people who were in the same situation that I’m in now, whose landlords snuck around the CDC moratorium and whose judges allowed that.
I don’t usually talk in great detail about politics, because it leads to arguments with people on Facebook. But I want to share my feelings now. I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, then Mitt Romney in 2012. In 2016, I cast my ballot for Donald Trump. He wanted to focus on our country, which, at the time, was dying for help. So many people were in bad situations because their jobs were overseas. I believed we needed to fix what was broken here before we could help other countries be better. I voted for Trump again, because I felt like he would try to improve our economic situation and concentrate on our country.
The CDC shouldn’t allow anyone to be evicted right now. I think the government should take action so people don’t have to pay rent until the pandemic ends or pay the back rent that has been piling up since Covid-19 pushed so many people out of work. Same goes for mortgage payments and utilities bills. No one in my situation should have to go to court, either. Why has our government allowed this to happen?
The federal government should protect citizens by ordering local governments to stop kicking people out of their homes. My friends describe me as someone who goes above and beyond to help people in need and people I love. Right now, I need that kind of support from the government. I am not only about to lose my home. I am also fighting to stay alive.