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Texas Man On What It's Like Being Evicted During The COVID-19 Pandemic

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A moment now to hear about how these financial hardships affect one family.

DANIEL GARCIA: Honestly, I never thought that we would lose our home because of a virus going around.

SIMON: That's Daniel Garcia from Houston, where COVID case numbers are so high, public health officials have urged residents to stay home. Mr. Garcia's landlord evicted him and his family at the beginning of the month. He used to work at a car repossession company and lost that job in April during the shutdown. Finding a new job was difficult because of the pandemic and because Daniel Garcia has criminal charges on his record.

GARCIA: It's hard when you have a background because a lot of people base a person by their background. They don't give them a chance. They don't see that somebody can change, that, you know, they can change for the better.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Daniel Garcia is the sole provider for his family. His wife is in a wheelchair. Their son takes care of her when he's not in school. Mr. Garcia hasn't paid full rent since March, and he could only partially pay April's rent. He says he did everything he could to raise money, including pawn his family's possessions.

GARCIA: A Honda lawn mower that I had purchased to do yards, you know, my son's PlayStation and my wife's wedding ring and my wedding ring.

SIMON: Daniel Garcia applied to the COVID Relief Fund in Houston, which provides rent assistance, but the money didn't come through. He and his landlord went to court.

GARCIA: They called our name. And the judge says, you owe him $2,400. I am giving you five days to either vacate the premises or file for an appeal.

SIMON: Mr. Garcia wanted to do that. When he asked a court clerk about the appeals process, he was told he'd have to pay one month's rent in order to file for one, and this made Daniel Garcia's effort to find work even more urgent. He's 48 years old, a diabetic and a stroke survivor. But he had to hit the streets.

GARCIA: I went and stood at the day labor place, you know, trying to see if somebody needed yard work done, you know, a roof cleaned. I was out there every day trying to do something. I even went to the point where I was collecting some aluminum cans, you know? But aluminum - they're only paying 20 cents a pound. You know, we were not able to come up with that money to take it to trial. And now, you know, we're homeless. I can go without, but my wife and my son cannot go without. Honestly, I feel like I've (crying) failed them.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Last week, Daniel, his wife and son loaded their belongings into a U-Haul and left their home. They stayed in a budget hotel for one night and then had nowhere to go.

GARCIA: Me, my wife, my son, plus our service dog were in the U-Haul for, like, three nights. I let them sleep in the front where the A/C was. And, actually, I lifted up the back of it, and I slept in the back.

SIMON: Daniel Garcia continued to look for work. He used his phone to search online.

GARCIA: I met this gentleman off of Facebook, and he has a little landscaping company. I answered an ad about he needed somebody to help weeding and trim bushes.

SIMON: Daniel Garcia now works for that man and earns $10 an hour.

GARCIA: What I'm doing right now, it may not be much, but, hey, it's keeping my family in a hotel. It's about my family having a place to lay their head at the end of the day. In the last couple of days, I've had a little bit to be able to buy bread, ramen noodles, you know, bologna and, you know, stuff like that to feed them with.

SIMON: Daniel Garcia hopes to eventually make enough money to rent an apartment for his family.

GARCIA: My belief is there's something always better and bigger at the end of the day. You know, God will turn around and bless us.

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SIMON: Daniel Garcia of Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.