Coronavirus: SoCal family had no money for rent, then the cops came

The pandemic slashed the income of the children's father who works in a restaurant.
DOWNEY, Calif. (KABC) -- The coronavirus pandemic is claiming financial casualties among families who were already battling poverty.

Virginia Gomez, a mother of six, had police officers at her door repeatedly to enforce an eviction.

"We didn't have enough to pay for our room, so then the cops came."

The Gomez' family home is a single room at a Downey motel where she has rented for three years. The pandemic slashed the income of the children's father who works in a restaurant. She says his total weekly income is $300. The rent for their single room is $460 a week.

"So four times in one day I got the cops called on me trying to get me out," says Gomez.

It is a scene that is playing out across Los Angeles County despite the eviction moratorium, according to the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

"Landlords are using other tactics, such as demanding that they turn over their stimulus payments, threatening to evict them by locking them out or turning off utilities," said executive director Silvia Argueta.

Cries for help are routed to Legal Aid Foundation attorneys working from home.

"I was getting like a knot in my throat, like an apple in my throat she goes, 'don't worry about it, keep calm.' And she goes, 'give the phone to the police officer,'" says Gomez.

The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles hotline number is 800-399-4529. The agency reports that questions have multiplied since this time last year.

Questions about General Relief are up 50%, food stamps are up 78%, employee rights are up 52%, and housing rights in subsidized housing are up 50%.

Gomez credits lawyer Monica Arrellano for preserving her home and her family.

"If it wasn't for her I'd be gone, you know. Me and my kids would probably be in a shelter. I don't know where we would be at. Probably, I would have lost my kids. But I am glad that we're in the same place too," she said.

Argueta expected extended hardships for low-income families. Attorneys are committed to helping them.

"We are open for business and are helping Angelenos face this crisis together. And we're grateful to be able to do that."
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Gov. Gavin Newsom said he will announce on Thursday plans for California to move closer to reopening parts of the state in a "very positive sign" prompted by data on the coronavirus outbreak.

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