Son and 88-year-old mother face eviction amid COVID-19 pandemic and can't find help

Thursday, August 6, 2020
John Hill and 88-year-old mother face eviction amid COVID-19 and can't find help
A Houston drummer has gone from playing live music in big venues to sitting on his couch applying for financial assistance. This is his story.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston drummer has gone from playing live music in big venues to sitting on his couch applying for financial assistance.

"I'm stressed. I can't sleep," said John Hill.

For the first time in his life, Hill said he is facing eviction.

Hill and his 88-year-old mother have filled their living room with tubs as they pack up their lives with nowhere to turn.

"She's constantly checking on me to see what we are going to do. I tell her, 'Just don't worry about it, let me take care of it.' And then that puts more pressure on me because I really don't know what we're going to do," Hill said.

He said they've lived in their two-bedroom unit at Champions Green Apartments for more than a decade, paying their $1,087 rent on time each month.

"We never missed any payments. We pay every month," Hill said.

He was able to pay every month until May 2020.

Hill's music career and the three bands he plays in all came to a halt.

"We play down at the City Hall for Lake Jackson every year for, like, 3,000 people," he said.

He also said he doesn't qualify for unemployment benefits and he has spent weeks applying for help online, but never received any.

SEE RELATED STORY: Where Houstonians who can't pay rent during COVID-19 can turn for help

He has now resorted to selling personal possessions to pay bills.

"It's really embarrassing to be in this situation if you want to know the truth," Hill said.

"When you hear stories about people who have been upstanding citizens in their communities and have always paid rent and are now feeling broken and broke, it's devastating," said Dana Karni, an attorney with Lone Star Legal Aid.

Karni said one pinnacle of the city's second rent relief program, approved Wednesday, may be able to stop his eviction.

SEE RELATED STORY: Undocumented immigrants behind on their rent are self-evicting across Texas

"What I understood the mayor to say is that if an apartment complex accepts rent relief money related to one tenant then it is effectively prohibited from evicting any tenant in that complex through the month of September," said Karni.

Hill is trying to fight his eviction, but like so many going through it for the first time, he's not sure what to expect next.

"I'm really at a loss, I have no plan. I'm trying to do what I can to come up with the money, so we're not out on the street," he said.

SEE RELATED STORY: Texas Rep. pushes legislation to protect tenants from financial hardship in state of emergency

Lone Star Legal Aid is providing free legal help to navigate and fight the eviction process.

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