Man chooses homelessness to avoid debt amid pandemic financial struggles

Man facing pandemic-related debts moves out of condo and into minivan

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - A Las Vegas man says he had no choice but to move into his van, rather than continuing to rack up debt, after he struggled to get financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brian Ward worked as a delivery driver prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but health concerns forced him to step away from his job last March. He’s been applying for financial help from the state of Nevada ever since but says his applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Cares Housing Assistance Program have largely gone unanswered.

“Literally thousands of phone calls. Most times, it’s busy. Hours on wait. There’s been more than one occasion where I was on hold for seven hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds, at which point they automatically terminate your call,” he said.

At first, Ward took advantage of the protections provided by state and federal eviction moratoriums to stay in the one-bedroom condo he could no longer afford. But as his owed rent continued to rise, he decided to move out and now lives in his minivan.

“The moratorium, I think, was a bad idea to begin with. I mean, you’re deferring costs to the future that, even in the long run if everything gets smoothed out, your generations ahead and your heirs are all going to have to pay for this,” Ward said.

Knowing he’s not alone, Ward worries Nevada will be facing a huge wave of homelessness in a few short months.

“It’s kind of a really bad situation... Rents [and] property values have gone up because of how many people are relocating here. It’s not going to be a pretty situation. There’s going to be a lot of people looking for a new place all of a sudden. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. I’ll be doing it from my vehicle,” he said.

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