Crystal McGaw of Ahwatukee

Crystal McGaw of Ahwatukee is struggling to keep her Ahwatukee apartment after falling in arrears on her rent.

The President’s approval of the new pandemic-relief bill postpones for a month an expected  slew of evictions in Arizona and the nation, but it still leaves Crystal McGaw worrying about the future.

The Ahwatukee woman still could be caught in the tsunami of evictions as thousands of renters who lost their jobs struggle to make their rent. 

Until the bill was signed Sunday night, the eviction ban was slated to end tomorrow, Dec. 31. Gov. Doug Ducey already has stated Congress has responsibility to address the problem.

McGaw had been anxiously watching the political volleyball over the measure, which had been twisting in the wind in Congress for months.

“I’m obsessively watching it,” she said the day before the bill was signed. “I wish that I could stop watching it but it’s just consumed my life because it’s such a big factor. It impacts a lot.”

Out of work and dealing with a number of health problems, McGaw, a mother of a teen-aged boy, is three months in arrears on her apartment rent.

She has been jumping through government hoops to get her back rent covered and was told she’d be getting a check covering the three delinquent months.

That was two weeks ago.

And though she has kept her landlord apprised of her communications with government agencies, McGaw noted, “I’m being charged $5 a day until they receive those funds – that adds up.”

An Indiana native who moved to Ahwatukee in March 2019, hoping the Arizona climate would be beneficial for the severe asthma that she and her son share.

She held a fulltime and a parttime job while struggling with other health issues. 

“I have a lot of health complications – nothing severe but when you cobble them all together, it’s quite challenging,” McGaw said.

Six months after she moved to Ahwatukee, doctors found a brain tumor that, while not terminal, basically has left her blind in one eye. She also suffers from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that has no cure. Early in the summer she also was in a car accident that left her with two herniated discs.

The pandemic’s economic toll began closing in on McGaw in July, when she went on medical leave from her fulltime job because her asthma actually became worse, leaving her lung capacity half of what it should be. Not long afterward she also was furloughed from her parttime job and eventually was told the position was eliminated.

She turned to the government for help and found herself caught up in a skein of government agencies and nonprofits that have been doling out millions in federal relief dollars.

While she was directed to contact the Arizona Department of Housing to apply for rent relief, McGaw also contacted the City of Phoenix, hoping that two agencies working on her behalf would be more effective than one.

“I went on their website.” She said, “and once I put in everything, I kind of got an error message stating that I would have to contact the Arizona Department of Housing.”

McGaw is now pinning her hopes on the kindness of strangers.

“The current pandemic has completely turned my world upside down financially,” she wrote on a gofundme.com page that she set up to help her meet her rent and other expenses. 

“With little to no support system, I’m left to seek aid via an alternative source,” she wrote, expressing anxiety that she will be ousted from her home once another month’s rent comes due.

The page, which people can find by searching “Crystal McGaw” at gofundme.com, has so far garnered $2,395 of the $7,500 she hopes to raise. Even if the check comes, the donations will be put to good use as she has other bills mounting as well, she said.

She hasn’t started looking for a job yet because she and her 15-year-old son have too many doctors to see right now.

“It would just be a setup for failure if I did (get a job) because I have so many appointments,” she said. “I would miss a lot of work and you know, that’s just not going to fly particularly as a new employee.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” McGaw said. “I started looking for something that will allow me to work from home. But like I said, just to go into something full time right now would be a bit of a set up because I have so many appointments and I have to get control of my health.”

Asked what she will do if she loses her apartment, McGaw said, “I don’t know. I don’t have the answer for that.”

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