Vanessa Smith remembers the first time she saw the home she’s lived in for the last three and a half years: “I fell in love,” she says. “I liked the neighborhood and the commute to work, and the apartment was the perfect size.” Smith, who requested that her name be changed to protect her privacy, also liked that the apartment came with access to a small backyard where she could grow tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.
Smith lives in Ohio City, a neighborhood west of downtown Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River. “What’s wonderful about it is my neighbors,” she says. Over the years, Smith has celebrated holidays and shared her backyard harvest with her neighbors. Her entire family lives in another state, so this close-knit community is especially appealing to Smith.
“How am I going to pay my bills? How long is this going to last? Should I start a new job?”
When COVID-19 started spreading throughout the United States in March of 2020, Smith began to work from home. Then in April, she was furloughed. Smith says she understood why her employer had to make this decision, but it put her in a precarious situation: “How am I going to pay my bills?” she wondered. “How long is this going to last? Should I start looking for a new job?