Last week, a crowd of about 30 people lined up in a single-file, socially distanced line outside the district court in Petersburg, Virginia. Among them was a 31-year-old woman who moved to Petersburg last summer with her 9-year-old son. The woman, who asked to be identified only by her last name, Edwards, was among the very first residents of Virginia to face eviction hearings since that state issued a moratorium on removing renters who’d fallen behind on their rent because of coronavirus-related job loss.
She’d been fleeing danger, Edwards says: An abusive partner forced her and her son to leave her home in North Carolina with almost nothing but what she could carry. But in the year since, she’d found a place to rent in Petersburg near her father and a job with an airline at Richmond International Airport. Then the coronavirus pandemic arrived, and her life turned upside down again. The airline let her go in March; the work she does part-time as a nail stylist also dried up due to the shutdown. She filed for unemployment insurance, but her benefits didn’t arrive until May. And she got behind in her rent.