When 2-year-old Ezechiel Nguezemi fell to his death from a third story apartment window in Takoma Park, Maryland, on Oct. 11, it upended his mother’s world. Now, the Montgomery County Renter’s Alliance is working to help her financially navigate this trying time.
“They’re a low-income family that are struggling as many families are in this pandemic,” Matt Losak, executive director for the alliance, said.
The nonprofit got wind of Nguezemi’s situation through her friends and neighbors, as well as the Takoma Park Housing Department. Losak explained that Nguezemi was a food delivery worker and had lost her job due to the pandemic.
Her landlord was pursuing an eviction case, Losak said, though the case was recently dropped once the Renter’s Alliance, City of Takoma Park and the community became aware.
The nonprofit is attempting to raise $50,000 to help Nguezemi cover living, funeral and food expenses that have built up for the single mother. So far, it has raised about $28,000.
“The tragedy of the little boy falling out of the the third story window and being killed, and the mounting funeral expenses and other expenses that come along with [the child’s death] put the family in a terrible position,” Losak said. “Hundreds of residents in this region have expressed their heartfelt condolences and have provided donations.”
The death of Nguezemi’s son is a unique challenge on top of a more common one that thousands of renters are experiencing in the county.
Losak said that nearly 30,000 renters being at risk of losing their homes in Montgomery County alone.
And that, according to Losak, is just based on the data — he estimated that it’s probably far worse if one looks at those who are fearing eviction or assuming they’re going to lose their homes eventually because of shaky job circumstances brought on by the pandemic.
In those cases, Losak said those renters are choosing to “self-evict.”
“We’re looking at tens of thousands of people — maybe more than that — whose housing is at risk,” Losak said. “This crisis goes well beyond the cost of someone losing their home. It’s going to affect the overall welfare and prosperity of the much wider community, so everyone has an interest.”
WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report.