“It ain’t no fun when your stomach hurts from hunger. It ain’t no fun — especially in a pandemic,” said one South Carolina woman who lost her home.
Sineeka Latimer said she has vacillated between tears and prayer since she learned late last month that she was being evicted from her home in Greenville, South Carolina, where she lives with her four teenagers and her mother.
After two murders near her rental home, Latimer, 40, wanted a safer place for her family to live. Unable to find an affordable new home, however, she began her application to renew her lease. With many offices closed or unable to serve her in person, the coronavirus pandemic complicated her ability to collect all the documents she needed and pay her rent in time. She got an eviction notice days later.
Now Latimer — who works at an assisted living facility for $12 an hour — her mom and her kids have to leave their home Monday with no idea where they might next rest their heads.
“Cost of living here is just so high,” said Latimer, who has gone through a period of homelessness before. “We’re probably going to have to put our stuff in storage and go to a motel until something comes through.”
Latimer is one of thousands of people who face or will face eviction as the economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic has led millions across the United States to find their housing situations complicated or to miss their housing payments. Latimer’s eviction is part of the early wave that came after the state moratorium was lifted in May.
The federal moratorium, which Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue to debate in the latest negotiations over coronavirus legislation, paused evictions in most federally subsidized housing for four months, affecting 12.3 million to 19.9 million households. The eviction notices for those homes in South Carolina and other states will go out Aug. 24, because the federal moratorium expired at the end of July.
Before the pandemic, South Carolina already faced a long-term housing crisis, and it had the highest eviction rate in the U.S., nearly twice that of any other state, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. Now, with tens of millions in the United States out of work and the sudden disappearance of the unemployment relief and eviction moratoriums provided by the expired CARES Act, the pain caused by the pandemic could reach a whole new dimension.
In South Carolina alone, 52 percent of renter households can’t pay their rent and are at risk of eviction, according to an analysis of census data by the consulting firm Stout Risius Ross. About 185,000 evictions could be filed in the state over the next four months.