Home At Last! (U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants – USCRI)

By USCRI July 13, 2021

Home at last! With a lot of persistence and a little luck, the USCRI North Carolina Neighbor Relief case manager helps immigrant family to end COVID-related homelessness.

For immigrant families like the Jimenez family, the COVID pandemic brought with it a multitude of challenges. A few months after the pandemic started in 2020, Jose Jimenez was laid off from his job at the Marriott, due to COVID-19 budget cuts. With this loss of income, the rent began piling up for this family of four. The family was eventually served an eviction notice. Despite a legal appeal, they were eventually evicted from their apartment. Jose, Nadiwska, and their two young daughters were now left with no housing or security at a time when they needed it the most.

After a few months of sleeping on the couch of a friend, the Jimenez family was able to receive special financial help to stay at a hotel for a short period of time. The family ended up in an extended stay hotel for a while, but without steady income the expense was greater than their income. Their financial crisis grew more dire.

In mid-winter, the family sought help from USCRI. Arthur Nicolas, Neighbor Relief Case Manager, began working with the family and applying to a multitude of apartments. Rejections came time and time again. The hit their credit took from the previous eviction was an incredibly large barrier to the search for sustainable new housing. Feeling hopeless and with increasing debt, the wife and children eventually had to leave Jose to go stay with relatives in New York.

Then came the first glimmer of hope. After more than a month of searching, Nicolas was able to find a landlord that was willing to overlook the eviction and poor credit rating, if the family was able to provide a good reference from a previous landlord. But the family had lost all contact information for their previous landlords through the years. With little to work with besides some previous addresses, Nicolas spent days researching and calling a series of individuals associated with the addresses.

Again, Nicolas and Jose met dead-end after dead-end. The initial hope was disappearing by the spring 2021, when Nicolas finally got ahold of a landlord that was willing and able to be a reference.

With multiple emails and daily reminders from Nicolas, the previous landlord sent the necessary signed documents. The extensive application for the new apartment was complete, but the Jimenez family just felt anxious and overwhelmed. After what felt like years, the family was finally approved for the apartment.

Jose now has a place and can provide his family with a sense of security during this unprecedented time. USCRI North Carolina was able to help with two months’ rent and some groceries while the family settled into their new place. Jose has found a new job and the family is regaining stability.

“This was the most heartwarming and rewarding experience that I have had the pleasure to aid in.” Nicolas reported.

USCRI North Carolina also provided the family with a laptop, which was an immense help to Jose and the children struggling to keep up with online classes in the midst of crisis.

Nicolas, Jose, and the entire Jimenez family stay in frequent contact. The family expresses their immense gratitude for Nicolas and the USCRI North Carolina Neighbor Relief program through phone calls and emails. Nadiwska recently wrote to Nicolas, “I wanted to thank you again, without your help none of this would have been possible. Thank you so much.”

Overcoming Challenges in the Midst of Chaos 

Despite the extreme hardships and uncertainty that was brought upon the family over the course of the last year and a half, the entire family continues their commitment towards growing and overcoming any challenges they face. Their youngest daughter, who is only three years old, will begin at a pre-school for low-income families. As well as that, their 18-year-old daughter will begin her freshman year of college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the fall.

Though the family spent almost the entirety of the pandemic lockdown bouncing from location to location with no security and no place of sanctuary, their daughter will be expanding her knowledge and education at a well-established university. This family did not let any challenge tear them down; they continue to grow as a part of the community. USCRI North Carolina recognized this outstanding determination by all members of the family and made it a priority to get the family a laptop for their daughter heading off to college.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy of individuals.

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