KC family fears homelessness for 2nd time after coronavirus puts both parents out of work

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Thousands of families right here in the metro are feeling the sting of record-setting unemployment. With bills now coming due, some fear they could find themselves homeless.

In Kansas, there’s an eviction moratorium in place to stop landlords from kicking renters out and halting mortgage foreclosures. However, no similar protections are in place for Missourians. 

Families in the Show-Me State are begging for help to avoid ending up on the streets.

Tiana Caldwell and her husband Derrick are among the millions now jobless during this public health emergency.

“It hit kind of like a ton of bricks. You just kind of feel lost,” Tina Caldwell said.

As schools and businesses closed up, Tiana’s software training clients disappeared. Her company has said it may be forced to close permanently. 

As a two-time cancer survivor with heart and lung health issues, the KC mom is extremely limited on what kind of jobs she can take while the virus threat lingers.

“It’s not really a conducive climate right now to be looking for work, which is also a scary thing. Then with my extra vulnerabilities, it’s just impossible,” she said.

Her fear is only worsening. Her husband Derrick is an electrician. His employer had possible COVID-19 exposures and canceled jobs then left him unemployed, too.

“You start having to think about what you’re going to do about rent, what you’re going to do about bills, and what you are going to do from here,” Caldwell said.

The couple said they don’t have money for rent, which is due April 5. Like thousands of others, they’re struggling to get enrolled for unemployment benefits with system overloads and crashes.

“It just feels like I’m stuck. Abandoned. Kind of trapped,” Caldwell said.

Tiana, Derrick and their 12-year-old son, AJ, fear they could find themselves homeless for a second time. Soaring medical bills during Tiana’s last cancer diagnosis put them on the streets.

“After spending those six months that way, it gives you a different type of anxiety. You’ve kind of been there and never want to go there again, and then something like this happens that you have no control over,” she said.

The Caldwells, along with activist group KC Tenants, are now pleading with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to stop evictions statewide. Ideally, they’d like temporary rent suspension, so when businesses return and bills are piled up, families aren’t drowning in debt.

“There’s going to be a time of replenishment, right. We’re going to have to recover from this crisis, and people are going to need to be protected through that,” Caldwell said.

“I want to stand up for people who need help and get people at home so they can stay safe and not be sick, so we can all stay alive,” her son, AJ, said.

During a news conference Thursday, FOX4 asked Parson about his plans to protect renters. He said he’s not enacting eviction or foreclosure moratoriums right now, but he said many courts around Missouri are not accepting or prioritizing eviction cases right now either.

Jackson County’s circuit court is one of those. In mid-March, a judge ordered the temporary suspension of evictions in Jackson County for 30 days. But once the 30 days are over, there’s nothing stopping landlords unless something changes.

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