On the brink of homelessness: how low-income families manage during COVID-19 pandemic

Many low-income families live week to week in long term hotels or motels. The statewide ban on evictions does not protect them if they cannot pay the rent.

Now that so many of these people are unemployed, every time they hear that knock at the door for the rent, they fear they are one knock away from becoming homeless.

It's a simple motel room, but it's home to Victor Hewitt. Now out of work, it's what's keeping him from homelessness. "These motels are charging me about $200, maybe $250 a week, and if you don’t have the money like, I just got money put aside for about one more week, and I’m worried if I’m going to have anything to eat," said Hewitt.

It's a similar story for Vanessa Sellers, who has lived in a Pasadena hotel for three years."I work for Denny’s and on the 17th, they said, 'No more.' So I’ve been out of work almost three weeks now," said Sellers.

The Texas Supreme Court halted eviction hearings across the state until April 20th.

But Lone Star Legal Aid's Nick Whitacker says the pause does not apply to long term stay hotels.

"Under the law, you are not considered a permanent resident. You are considered a guest staying on someone else's property, not a resident of the property, which means you don't get a lot of the rights that come with being a tenant or resident," explained Whitaker.

He suggests residents ask hotel managers to accept a delayed payment until the renter can receive a stimulus check, unemployment or charitable aid."I recommend if you think you're in a situation where you may not be able to pay for your stay, that you try to work something out with the hotel manager as soon as you can," said Whitaker.

But not knowing when that relief might come leaves residents with sleepless nights.

"He says no this is not your home, and I said I’ve been here three years, this is my home," said Sellers.

"I haven’t had no sleep. I’m only getting like four hours of sleep, trying to figure out where’s my next meal going to come from or if I’m going to have enough to pay for another week," said Hewitt.

Hotel residents struggling to pay rent at a long term hotel can call the United Way Helpline at 211, or other organizations, such as Catholic Charities, to apply for rental assistance.