Monica Marez

Monica Marez goes through the dumpster searching for her belongings Dec. 14 at the Las Lomas Apartments. Marez was evicted from the apartments a month earlier and said she had been trying to contact them for permission to reclaim her belongings.

   After her husband died a year ago Monica Marez moved her and her two daughters in with her mother at the Las Lomas apartments. A year later on Nov. 3 her mother died of a stroke.

     The apartment management company changed the lock and Marez said there were about seven law enforcement officers there. They asked her to leave on Nov. 6 leaving her and her daughters with nowhere to go.

    The complex gave her two hours to reclaim her belongings, which Marez said wasn’t enough time. She returned at a different time to find the apartment unlocked. She went in to collect her belongings and was told to leave.

    Marez said the belongings that were scattered about the dumpster were packed up last time she saw them. There are stacks of boxes collapsed and folded neatly in the dumpster.

    Marez said her brother, with whom she’s not on good terms, was there to collect their mother’s belongings.

    Marez said her daughters are staying in Albuquerque but she’s not staying specifically anywhere right now.

    A month later Marez is digging through the dumpster outside the Los Lomas Apartments sorting through her daughters’ belongings.

    “I have been calling these people, I left two notes,” Marez said. “I have no idea what to do, I just want to get my stuff.”

Sorting belongings

    Marez, sorting through the toys, books and furniture in the dumpster, points at the stacked pile of folded boxes that she says everything was packed up in before she was removed from the apartment.

    “This stuff is my moms, it’s broken stuff and that’s pissing me off,” Marez said.

    Marez’s friends were helping her remove items from the dumpster.

    Luis Rodriguez, one of the people Marez was staying with, said they had made multiple attempts to reach out to the apartment management to collect her belongings.

    “They could have let us get her stuff, this poor lady,” Rodriguez said. “They’re just more concerned with renting the place out.”

    Danielle Giangoes, another one of Marez’s friends, had more choice words for the complex’s managers.

    “To me it seems spiteful and cruel,” Giangoes said. “Everything they have done to this woman is illegal.”

    However, despite the Center for Disease Control and the New Mexico Office of Courts having moratoriums on evictions, what happened here appears to be above board. Marez’s name not being on the lease means when the apartment manager demanded her and her daughters leave, that’s not an eviction.

    Roger Gonzales the President of HELP New Mexico said that can come from Housing and Urban Development being very strict on who is renting their properties. Due to the fact that they have long wait lists, a landlord would need to take in new people on the wait list and fill vacancies in order to keep their HUD certification.

Help available

    Gonzales said they’re not seeing too many people losing their homes in Rio Arriba County right now.

    “In Rio Arriba we’re seeing food scarcity and a lot of people who are only a month, maybe two behind on bills,” Gonzales said. “We are spending a lot of money for utilities, and water heaters are burning out.”

    HELP New Mexico has a base award of $500 for people eligible for help with their bills, but Gonzales said there is up to an additional $3,000 available through the CARES Act.

    “We’re seeing a reluctance from people to seek assistance, and when they do it’s often too late,” Gonzales said. “Culturally most folks want to resolve things on their own. It’s a sense of pride. It takes a lot to get people to reach out here, but I like to tell people these are hands up not hands out.”

    Hank Hughes, the president for the New Mexico Coalition to end homelessness said homelessness had been on the rise in New Mexico in recent years and he was worried that it was going to be even worse in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Hughes said one of the problems he noticed was people tend to try other solutions to make ends meet before looking for assistance, which comes with some unexpected downsides.

    “It’s hard people go into debt borrowing money from family members to pay rent and CARES Act, government money is for paying for rental assistance not for paying off debt,” Hughes said.

    Homeless shelters have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have transitioned to housing people in motels.

    “Donations to any of the agencies are really important because the CARES Act money is running out and it will be awhile before this next round gets to us,” Hughes said.

    Los Lomas Apartments officials declined to comment.

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