Scrambling to meet the rent


When the unexpected happened, finances were strained and parents needed help keeping pace.

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, Melisia Huggins has hit a wall.

As the second wave of the coronavirus subsided in New York City and optimism mounted, Ms Huggins, a science professor at Midwood Catholic Academy in Brooklyn, felt her financial situation was crumbling.

“All of a sudden this pandemic has really tied a knot in everything,” Ms. Huggins said.

In addition to teaching, Ms. Huggins, 40, worked at an after-school daycare and made $ 75 a day. But this income has become more sporadic as the program has had to adjust its operations due to the virus. And the home she had worked to find for her family was in danger.

For over four years before moving in, Ms Huggins, her son and mother lived with relatives and church acquaintances. Ms Huggins worked to support the three, while juggling her student loan debt and the tuition fees of her son, Ethan, 11.

The tide turned when Ms Huggins applied and was approved for an affordable apartment through the City’s Housing Lottery in 2018. They were able to move to Jamaica, Queens, and pay off some debts.

But when her reliable income changed, Ms. Huggins, 40, fell into rent arrears.

“I was trying to figure out where am I going to go?” Where am I going to find the money together? ” she said.

Through her property manager, Ms. Huggins was in contact with the Community Service Society, an agency recipient of the New York Times Neediest Fund. In May, the Community Service Society used $ 2,853, including $ 500 from the Fund, to pay Ms. Huggins’ three months of missed rent, providing some relief.

“It shows that there are still some nice people,” Ms. Huggins said. “I was able to save my apartment.

In addition to her jobs at the Academy, Ms. Huggins works 12 hours a week as a customer service representative at a Home Depot on Long Island to pay for gas and internet, and to provide Ethan with pocket money. .

Her goal is to become a certified teacher for the city, which offers a higher salary than her current teaching position, so that she can buy a house, a dream of her son.

“That’s why I’m really working in all of these places to really try to achieve this goal,” she said. “Because why shouldn’t he have this?” “

Ms Huggins’ home is just one of hundreds of thousands of people in New York City who have fallen behind on rent over the summer.

Alexandra Gil, a mother of two, also received assistance with the rent of her apartment in New York. The need arose as she cared for her son, who had Down syndrome and was recovering from a bone marrow transplant, the last medical challenge he had faced since his birth in 2010.

“As soon as one thing ended, another started,” said Ms. Gil, 48, of the Bronx.

Ms Gil’s son, Pedro, was born with a heart defect that required him to spend several months in intensive care before undergoing surgery as a baby. Additionally, her husband passed away in 2010, a loss that was marked by Ms Gil’s health issues – a malignant tumor in her stomach and then a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

The trouble seemed insurmountable. “I didn’t think I could do it,” said Ms Gil, who was also caring for her eldest daughter.

Unable to work while receiving treatment, Ms Gil and her children moved into her mother’s one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. Her mother looked after Ms. Gil and her daughter, Alexa, while Ms. Gil looked after Pedro.

“I had never needed to ask for help before. I didn’t know anything about the help I received, ”said Ms. Gil, who searched online and found that she and Pedro were eligible for disability assistance. Ms Gil kept these checks to pay for an apartment for the three of them, which they moved into in 2014. She fed her family with help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Ms. Gil was still receiving treatment for her cancer when Pedro fell ill again. From January 2015 to 2017, Pedro was treated for leukemia at the New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. Pedro’s social worker there not only helped Ms. Gil ask for more public assistance, but also supported her emotionally during the heartbreaking time.

“The only thing I had to worry about when I was in the hospital was Pedro’s health,” Ms. Gil said. “They helped me with everything else.”

When Ms Gil fell behind on rent in the summer of 2020, it was Pedro’s social worker who contacted the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood, a community service center. Ms Gil was caring for Pedro, who had relapsed in 2019 and required multiple rounds of chemotherapy. He received a bone marrow transplant in January 2020.

Using $ 2,932 in funds received from the UJA-Federation of New York, a recipient of the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, the Washington Heights Y paid Ms. Gil’s three months rent in October 2020.

Today Ms. Gil is studying to become a caregiver and Pedro is back in school. “I want other families to know there is help,” said Ms. Gil.

Donations to The Neediest Cases Fund can be made online or by check.

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