Rent relief helps single mom with multiple sclerosis after COVID-19 delays new job

The pandemic froze hiring at Liya's new employer and left her with no income

Liya had a plan. She would transition to her new job at a local digital media company on March 17, a week after leaving her old job. 

What she hadn’t planned for was COVID-19 indefinitely delaying her start date, leaving her in financial crisis and forcing her to seek rent assistance. She found the help she needed at St. Vincent de Paul.

Liya had been working for the Arizona Department of Corrections, calculating release eligibility dates for offenders as part of the Time Computation Unit. It was reliable work, and a job she could manage with daily pain from multiple sclerosis. But the two hour commutes by bus were long and hard.

As a single mom, Liya looked forward to working closer to home in north Phoenix, having more time to spend with her 11-year-old daughter, and making more money to support their household.

But then, community spread of COVID-19 began in Arizona.

Within a week after leaving her job, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus had Arizona public and private sectors instituting social distancing and heightened health safety. Many local businesses were forced to take drastic measures—shuttering doors, freezing hiring, furloughing employees and more—all to limit exposure and cut losses. The digital media company Liya was meant to join was no exception.

On March 16, she received a phone call from her new employer. They were going “on hiatus” due to COVID-19, and her onboarding and start date would be put on hold until further notice. 

“I began to panic,” Liya said.

In two weeks she faced paying $1,188 in rent for her two-bedroom apartment in addition to all of the usual utility, insurance and grocery bills. 

“I had received my last check for $43 from the State,” she said, “but I had exhausted my PTO and had no more checks coming in.”

Her apartment complex circulated a list of resources for tenants facing tough financial times. That led to Liya connecting with SVdP’s Resource Center for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. When she called, she reached a program coordinator ready to help.

“She was completely helpful,” Liya said. “So sweet, so kind, so understanding. I knew she may not be able to cover everything, but when she said she could completely meet my need…it just offered so much peace.”

On April 1, Liya paid her rent in full. The next day she celebrated her birthday at home with her daughter. Like everyone else, they’ve been staying home, cooking, cleaning, playing board games and watching movies when her daughter is done with homework. 

As she looks toward May, Liya still has an uphill battle. Since receiving help from SVdP, she’s been able to qualify for unemployment, although she said the process was difficult. 

“They make it so hard for people like me who are just trying to survive,” she said.

Liya spends hours every day applying to open positions she feels she can work and still manage on her worst days with MS. She has extreme joint pain, numb fingertips and sometimes experiences brain fogs and short-term memory loss. Still, she’s determined to push ahead for herself and her daughter.

“I’ve always worked,” said Liya, who has been turned down for Social Security Disability three times. “I’ve worked since I was 13 years old. I’m intelligent, learn and pick things up quickly. I keep getting jobs, keep going to work because that’s what I have to do to survive.”

She’s not sure of the future or if her new position will ever start. Like so many people right now, Liya waits for a phone call, hoping she’ll start work the day business reopens.

Help families like Liya's remain safe and sound in their homes. Many families live with no margin to tap into during times of crisis, while others have margin to spare. This week people started receiving stimulus checksan unexpected gift to help during the pandemic. How will your check help? Is it needed for your family or could you offer part or all of it to help another? Your margin, your kindness, your generosity allows SVdP to make sure families will eat tonight, pay their utility bills and sleep in their own beds without fear of eviction. Donate today to the COVID-19 Family Relief fund.


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