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"I just want to bust out crying": Evictions put strain on tenants and law enforcement

More than 5 million may face eviction
More than 5 million may face eviction 02:43

San Antonio, Texas — It's a quiet morning, but it's about to get loud. Even with a federal ban, evictions have been allowed to continue in San Antonio — but there are fewer constables to do the emotional and often chaotic job of telling families to leave their homes. 

"It's a lot more sensitive and dangerous because people are stressed out," said Bexar County Deputy Laura Valencia. 

On the day CBS News followed Valencia and her team, Bexar County constables were evicting a tenant who may be armed. 

There have been over 18,000 evictions filed since March 2020 in Bexar County, according to the constable's office. The office expects the number to increase by three to five times once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ban is lifted. 

Maria Elena Garcia, an 84-year-old landlord, has been trying to evict her tenant for non-payment for three years. "This was a nice place. This is not nice no more," Garcia said. "I don't like this mess." 

Valencia, who has been doing her job for 15 years, said balancing the landlord's needs with the tenant's is a "sensitive area." 

"It was stressful because you do have compassion towards the tenants because they've lost work. And you want to try to help them as much as you can, and at the same time do your job," Valencia said. "The tough part is just seeing the families, that you have to tell them, you know, we've given you the 24 hours to vacate already. We're just, we're trying to do our job and execute them and be fair to the landlord as well, because there's compassion towards them as well." 

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Deputy Laura Valencia keeps watch as crews clear an apartment where a tenant was evicted.  CBS News

Michelle Medina and Josh Barkley know the pain of eviction. The 28-year-old couple has six children. They were evicted two weeks after Medina gave birth. 

"I was scared. I was crying constantly, trying to figure out, OK, I said, where are we going to go? And if we could stay together," Medina said. 

Barkley, who has been working since he was 16, lost his painting job that paid $18 an hour due to the pandemic. "I'm barely managing to get back on my feet," he said. 

For the past month, they have been living with more than 120 others at a Salvation Army emergency shelter. Barkley does odd jobs but has not been able to secure a full-time job. Medina is waiting for her kids to go to daycare so she is able to work. 

"My kids, you know, that's the only positive outcome that I have. My days could be long, but I don't think it matters just as long as they're OK," Barkley said. "There's time I just want to bust out crying, you know, but I don't. It's painful for a man to even hold that much pain inside due to failure in life in parts. At the end of the day, I just stay focused on my kids. Any man's dream is to have a family and what makes me proud is that I'm here, as a dad, a father." 

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Michelle Medina and Josh Barkley celebrate their son's third birthday at the Salvation Army shelter.  CBS News

At the shelter, there has been an increase in families who lost jobs because of the pandemic, said Roxanne Ponce, the shelter program supervisor at the Salvation Army. 

"The homeless population that we're seeing coming in because of the effects of evictions is an average, everyday person. It's people that look and work just the way you and I do. This is a first for many. We're dealing with families who know what it is to hold the job down," Ponce said. 

Barkley and Medina's children know money is tight. The couple managed to save enough to buy chocolate cupcakes for their son's third birthday. As they try to have a normal celebration, one of their children brings a drawing home from school — a picture of the family in a house. 

"That is what we want," Barkley said. "We do need a house and we are going to get one." 


This story is part of "CBS Evening News" series In Depth, which takes a deeper look at the stories in the headlines.

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