This should be one of the happiest times of Monica Barnes’ life. She’s expecting her first child. Her baby daughter is due in about three weeks. But, Barnes is carrying a major burden.
She’s being evicted. She found a three-day eviction notice on her apartment door on April 15.
“I just cried,” Barnes said. “I sat there and talked to the lady. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m supposed to get a stimulus check. But, I don’t know when that’s coming in the mail.’”
She said the representative with the apartment building’s property management office told her she needed to figure it out.
“She said, 'If you don’t have it by this date, just go ahead and move out,'” said Barnes.
Apparently, she isn’t the only one in the area to experience eviction while pregnant. Expectant mothers have made up a large number of those facing eviction during COVID-19, according to Mary Reid, Social Services Director at St. Vincent de Paul, the local chapter of the international non-profit agency. Last summer, Cincinnati City Council approved about $225,000 for an eviction prevention initiative.
St. Vincent de Paul distributes the funds, which have been nearly depleted in light of the pandemic. The agency is tapping into other resources to deal with the unexpected need.
Reid said before the coronavirus pandemic, they would receive about 35 requests per week for rental assistance. A couple weeks ago, they had 70 requests.
“We see a lot of mothers that get pregnant and either have to go on bed rest, or have to leave and are in lower-income-paying jobs. So they aren’t able to save,” said Reid.
That’s what happened to Barnes.
“I was placed on bed rest in December,” she said.
In addition to being a full-time nursing student at the University of Cincinnati, Barnes had worked for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission for seven years, since she was a teenager. She helped manage pools and other duties. She left last November because it was too taxing. Her doctor put her on bed rest, but even then, she said she made her rent payments.
She took another job in January, even though her doctor didn’t want her to work.
“I went to work for a home health (agency) which was more easier and less labor,” Barnes said. “I had a client to where I would just sit at their house and cook them dinner and stuff. So it was way easier on me.”
But that job ended on March 13 when she was placed on leave due to coronavirus, she said. She applied for unemployment on April 1, but hasn’t received a check yet. She also hasn’t received her government stimulus check.
The eviction notice arrived on April 15.
Paradigm Property Management collects rent for Barnes’ apartment. A representative had no comment when WCPO 9 News contacted the office for this story.
“It’s not like people don’t have a job and they’re just being lazy and not paying their bills. We have no way to pay them,” said Barnes. “It just stresses me a lot to be honest.”
Barnes has since reached out to St. Vincent de Paul for rental assistance. The months leading up to giving birth through the first few months after the child is born can be financially difficult, according to Reid. They were seeing it happen even before coronavirus.
“Since the coronavirus has happened now, many of those women have lost their jobs, you know, before they were even going to go on maternity leave. And they’re not sure when they’re going to be able to go back to those jobs,” Reid said.
“We determine which ones we are going to be able to help,” said Reid. “We contact them. We do all of our interviewing over the phone right now. We will ask them to send us some information, their ID for verification that they’ve been evicted.”
A three-day eviction notice or evidence of a court date are required for assistance from St. Vincent de Paul. Reid said if payment is authorized, it is sent directly to the landlord, normally in about 15 days. But they notify the landlord that the money is on the way.
“Landlords really want to try to work with us. There’s few that don’t. And when they don’t it’s because they’ve had a long history of with the neighbor of not paying,” said Reid.
However, the agency can't help everyone. They sometimes will try to find another organization to help, like the Freestore Foodbank or Hamilton County Job & Family Services, which also offer rental assistance.
Meanwhile, some may be surprised that eviction notices still can be issued during the pandemic. The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati has information about tenant resources and protections.
“The landlord can still issue a three-day notice, and the landlord can still file. But the courts are not scheduling any cases for about 45 days at this point,” said Reid.
Barnes said she’ll make a decision this week whether to stay in the apartment, or move out and stay with a relative. She’s been packing, just in case. But it’s a dilemma. She doesn’t want to give birth and try to move with a newborn. She also doesn’t want to be a burden to her family.
“But that’s the only option I have right now, besides being homeless,” she said.