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'We Don't Have Much, but This Is Our Home'

Kristian Hernández, Stateline.org on

Published in News & Features

“We’re spending the money faster than we can get it,” Brundage said. “But we know there are still pockets of people out there that still don’t know the assistance exists.”

For Juana, help came with no time to spare.

Fifteen minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline, she was still at least 30 minutes away from her apartment complex. She called the leasing office and begged for more time, but she didn’t expect to get a break. At 5:15, Juana ran into the office, out of breath — and was greeted with cheers. She could keep her home.

Living in the Shadows

Juana and her husband came to the U.S. legally 13 years ago, but they overstayed their visa when they were denied a new one. Because she is living here illegally, Juana asked Stateline not to publish her last name or the name of her husband.

Tenants applying for the emergency rental relief program are not required to provide a Social Security number to prove they are in the country legally, according to the Texas Rent Relief program website.

 

The couple had always lived paycheck to paycheck, barely making enough money to cover all their living expenses and medical bills. Juana was on dialysis for nearly a decade until August of last year, when she received a kidney transplant.

The American Association of Kidney Patients helped pay for Juana’s health insurance but stopped after the surgery, leaving the couple with a bill of $1,400 a month for medicine to prevent her body from rejecting the transplanted organ.

“I never thought I’d get a kidney, especially because of my immigration status,” Juana said. “It was unexpected, but we left it in the hands of God and made it work however we could.”

At that point, the family was already behind on rent. In April of 2020, Juana and her husband contracted COVID-19. Juana suspects she gave it her husband after catching it at the dialysis clinic. It took her husband two months to fully recover and another month or so to find a job after being fired for being out sick.

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