TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Finding and keeping housing has been difficult for many families throughout the pandemic.
"It's been a struggle. My kids are not in school because I don't have a stable home. I've been struggling from hotel to hotel, house to house and family members. It's been a burden," said Tucson mother, Miranda Vientos.
Roxanna Valenzuela advocates for families living in Tucson's historic barrios. On average, she meets six people a day in need of housing assistance.
"The pandemic has been harsh for everybody, but especially in these vulnerable communities. They are the ones that have seen the worst of it," said Valenzuela.
Pima County is now offering legal help to residents facing eviction. Attorneys with the the Office of Emergency Eviction Legal Services (EELS) provide free legal counseling and representation in court.
"We've had an eviction problem in Pima County for a while. It's been exacerbated by the pandemic. The pandemic provided additional resource in federal money that made it a possibility to try out this program," said Pima County Community and Workforce Development Deputy Director, Andrew Flagg.
The qualify for EELS, one must earn at or below 80% of the area median income. For a family of four, that adds up to $54,900 per year.
"An eviction case results in a loss of housing. In many cases, it unfortunately results in people facing homelessness. That's a really serious consequence for folks," said Flagg.
Flagg said Pima County will help more people avoid that consequence.
"They really deserve to come into court on a level playing field. Providing access to counsel is a part of doing that," said Flagg.