Forget Getting Sick – Am I Going to Be Homeless Again?

Eviction notice

Even though this is week two with a persistent flu, my concerns have not been with the coronavirus – at least not directly, at least not about my health. I’ve cared about one thing, and it’s not COVID-19. Instead it’s this: Will this pandemic cause me to become homeless again?

That’s all my mind has managed to muster up for the last month. I’ve had panic attacks at my desk at work. “I’m worried,” I admitted to my boss, holding back tears. “I don’t know if I’ll get paid,” I’ve told colleagues.

Why? Because in the back of my mind, I’ve believed that this will inevitably happen again. Regardless of how happy I’ve felt, how brightly the sun shines or how comfortable my bed feels on a rainy Sunday morning that feeling lurks in my subconscious. There’s a part of me that truly believes homelessness will happen again and it’s just a matter of when or how.

It’s hard walking through life anxiously waiting for the world to come crumbling down. Everything that’s happened to me, all the events that led up to my homelessness proved to me that everything will fail. My job was gone. The life I rebuilt two years ago from nothing would soon melt away. It was all in vain, pointless. That, if this is true, then there is no purpose in my life.

But none of this is actually true.

A colleague of mine, whom sat in a small office across the way for many years, provided some much needed comfort in the midst of panic and uncertainty. She said, “We’d never stand for it, Jocelyn. I promise you, there would be protests. We’d never allow it. We need you, too. We care about you. We’re in this together.”

Today, a strong union, The Professional Staff Congress, one of the largest labor unions in the country, protects me. And that is why I still have my job and my apartment today. Today I have a landlord that is fair and just, and cares about people. She doesn’t want any harm to come to her tenants and treats us like family.

But don’t let any of this fool you. Luck is something that clings to me, follows me around, and swoops in at the most critical of moments. But that’s the thing folks, it is still luck. I’m lucky because I have good people on my side.

I’m the exception to the rule. And the rules suck.

In reality, people are dying. People are losing their jobs. People will lose their homes.

As of this morning, there were 151,079 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York with 6,269 dead. And the worst is yet to come.

Although evictions are temporarily prohibited to prevent the inevitable influx of homelessness and keep housed people housed, that doesn’t make the rent payments go away. That doesn’t make the inevitable homelessness go away.

That doesn’t make bad landlords go away either. Not even a pandemic can do that, friends. In fact, they’re still out there, in full force, not caring even a little bit about the eviction moratorium. According to a housing attorney at a civil legal services organization in New York City, landlords are still threatening tenants with eviction, changing locks, shutting off utilities, or forcibly removing belongings from the apartment.

My best friend was just furloughed out of her management position for a very popular retail store. She is talking to me about going out and risking her life to find an essential job. Not because she wants to be a hero or anything like that, but because how else will she survive? How will she pay her rent and put food on the table otherwise?

I started asking myself these questions: Why I am anxious like this and why do I panic like I do? Why am I convinced that disaster is around every corner?

Well, that’s because it is.

Through life, my experiences have taught me this. I’ve learned that the system in place simply doesn’t work. It didn’t work for me and it doesn’t work for a lot of people. I’m not the only one worried to death over the uncertainties of what’s to come over the next few months. And I’m not the only one concerned about the lack of protection for the working class. I’m certainly not the only one wondering if I’ll still have a place to live in three months. I’m sure even you’ve thought about it at least once.

Perhaps capitalism can’t and won’t save us. We make the world turn. (And we can certainly make it stop, too.) But here we are, making sure it operates. Here we are working to protect each other. We save our own lives. There is power in the people.


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Jocelyn Figueroa

     

Jocelyn Figueroa studied Creative Non-Fiction at The New School and is a blogger and freelance writer based out of New York City. Formerly homeless, she launched her own blog discussing shelter life in New York City. Today, Jocelyn is on a mission to build connections through storytelling and creative writing. Check out her book about homelessness at https://ko-fi.com/scartissueproject

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