When Fintech Zoom knocked on her door, Dasha Kelly panicked, thinking the eviction she’s been dreading was finally at hand.
“You guys honestly freaked me out this morning when you knocked,” she said.
Kelly and her three daughters – Sharron, 8; Kia, 6; and Imani, 5 – are living on borrowed time, two months behind on rent at their two-bedroom Las Vegas apartment. The eviction notice she received is kept in a drawer in the kitchen; out of sight but top of mind.
“I’m not going to lie, because I’m really thinking they’re coming at any moment.”
The federal eviction moratorium that was helping to keep renters in their homes through the pandemic expired Saturday at midnight, paving the way for landlords to vacate tenants that are past due on rent. States are stepping up to help stave off a mass eviction, but not everyone can be reached or helped in time.
Kelly lost her job as a card dealer when Covid-19 forced Las Vegas’ famed casinos to shut their doors last year. She’s had a few temporary positions since, but not enough to keep up with rent. Now, desperate to stay in her home, the 32-year-old has pawned most of her furniture for cash.
The apartment is bare save for a small sofa in the living room and a television. Kelly sleeps on the floor in the larger bedroom while her daughters share a smaller room with nothing but a few doll boxes piled neatly in the corner. They play board games together, giggling on the wide swath of carpet, unaware they may soon be forced out.
“There are days I don’t even want to roll out the bed (or) roll out the floor, you get what I mean?” she said. “How do you explain that to your kids?”
She paused. “I don’t have any words. I think I’ll just break down crying and just hug them, I guess, and let them know everything’s going to be all right and we’re going to figure it out, I guess.”
More than 11 million Americans are behind on their rent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Congress approved $46 billion to help, but very little of that money has been handed out. In Nevada, a new law states that tenants who have applied for the Cares Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) may not be evicted while their case is being processed. However, the bureaucratic process can be complicated and not every landlord or tenant is keeping up with the ever-changing rules.
Nevada has extended its eviction protection to those who are in the process of applying for rental assistance. The state has also passed a law to seal eviction records from the pandemic.
“I did apply for a CHAP back in June and I thought it was something like they would reach out to you soon, but apparently it’s a process,” Kelly said. “I don’t know if they’ll even be able to help me in time.”
Kelly said she once made as much as $5,600 a night in tips working at a card table near the Las Vegas Strip. Now, she relies on food stamps, meager unemployment and $100 payments for selling her blood plasma as often as she can.
“I’ve always worked. I’ve been working since I was 16 years old,” she said. “It’s just crazy to me that something can come take your job without you doing wrong. I mean, you’re actually doing what you’re supposed to … getting good reviews, showing up to work. Then a virus comes in and then, ‘Oh sorry, you have no job’ … and you didn’t do anything.”
With no money for child care or car payments, the options for returning to work are few. Kelly said she’s hoping a friend may help, but she admitted she doesn’t have many in this city.
“I really don’t have a lot of friends out here, but just the coworkers that I’ve met … I’m hoping they can help, because my parents, they’re in another state and they’re kind of having a hard time themselves.”
Kelly recently posted a GoFundMe account out of desperation, with the goal of raising $2,000.
By Tuesday morning, it had raised more than $78,000 via more than 1,000 donations.