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Living on the edge: A Bronx mom's story of struggle and survival, one of many families fighting eviction

Posted at 5:26 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-11 17:42:26-04

NEW YORK CITY — Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs in the city during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are struggling to feed their families, and can’t pay their rent.

While the city's housing courts are restarting, renters protected from eviction could soon face legal problems, and other tenants could be kicked out of their homes.

Mimi Perez, 46, of the Bronx, said she is struggling to make ends meet. Since the age of 16, she has always worked and had several jobs. She said she calls herself a “hustler."

But when COVID-19 hit in March, Perez lost her job as a caterer.

For four months, she hasn’t been able to pay her rent.

“I feel like I am drowning," she said. "I feel like someone needs to give me a lifesaver so I don’t go deeper. I feel all alone.”

Perez has four children. Her biggest concern is becoming homeless.

She collects her rent bills in a folder and knows there are special tenant protections during the pandemic, but she fears she maybe one of thousands who will be forced to go to court, pay back rent, or get out.

Her landlord is keeping track of each payment she’s missed, and that number keeps growing.

For the first time, Perez said she stands in pantry lines and uses food stamps to feed her family. Many times, its just not enough.

“I’ve never had to worry about this before," she said. "It’s not just food and shelter, but the simple things, like clean clothes, being able to wash your clothes, and buy detergent. It’s the small things,” said Perez.

Unable to find work during the pandemic, she finds support in talking to other moms in her neighborhood, who have also lost their jobs and can’t pay their rent.

Perez finds peace in a community garden in her neighborhood. She showed us a sunflower she planted before the pandemic.

It's grown, but hasn’t bloomed yet.

“You don’t know your potential and strength until you have go deep," Perez said. "Then you know what you are made of."

New York City offers a free program to help resolve landlord-tenant disputes, and by calling 3-1-1, tenants can access resources, including a housing attorney.

See a COVID-19 fact sheet from the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants here

If any tenant has questions about their tenancy, from harassment to illegal eviction, to repairs or the moratorium, they can find their answers in the fact-sheet, or call 311 and ask for the “Tenant Helpline.”