CAMDEN  Jasmin Pike grew up in the Camden area, has been active in the community, and is raising a family as a single mother.

But Pike is becoming one of the victims of the region’s increasingly worsening lack of affordable housing crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to her dire housing situation.

Pike is being evicted from the apartment she and her 13-year-old son have lived in for the past three years.

Pike lives in a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment over the building housing the Owl & Turtle Bookshop Cafe. Before the pandemic struck, Pike was working as a recovery coach for Sequelcare of Maine and a server at a local restaurant. But those jobs were lost during the pandemic with the restaurant closing for a time.

The single mother also earned money from scheduling and overseeing the Airbnb bookings for one of the three apartments in the building. She homeschooled her son during the 2020-2021 school year.

The building was sold in June 2021 and the new owner decided to rent the apartment, used for Airbnb, for long-term rentals. That resulted in further loss of income for Pike, although she said that does help with the supply of housing for local people.

She received pandemic unemployment benefits during the pandemic but those ran out in 2021. In December, she was preparing to return to work when she contracted COVID-19. When she recovered from that bout of illness, she returned to work, getting a job with French & Brawn Marketplace in Camden.

The new building owner also increased her rent from $1,050 to $1,200. She acknowledged this was a reasonable rent for the apartment but money was tight and she was unable to pay her rent in January and February.

On March 14, 2022, the owner, Bradley Madeira, sent her a notice of default and termination of the lease, citing the lack of payment for those two months and March as well by that point.

Madeira acknowledged Pike sent him a text saying she was applying for rental assistance but this did not change the fact she was behind in her rent payments. He said he was not willing to enter into an agreement in which a third party would help pay the rent as had been done in 2021.

“We understand that you have experienced economic hardship as a result of the global pandemic and we feel for you, however, we have a responsibility to pay our own bills and we rely on the rental revenue that we receive from our building in order to carry and maintain the property,” he stated in the March letter to Pike that was filed in the Knox County Court when he began the eviction process.

He gave her until March 15 to pay $2,400 or the lease would be terminated and she would have to vacate the apartment by April 15.

The money was not paid and the case went to court. Pike said she spoke with the owner’s attorney at a June hearing and she was under the belief if she was able to get money to pay the back rent, she could continue to stay at the apartment. Maine does not provide lawyers for people who are in court facing eviction.

On Tuesday, July 19, she was in court again and Judge Barbara Raimondi ruled Pike had seven days to vacate the residence.

Pike said Penquis was willing to pay the back rent and three future months of rent but the owner would not consider changing his mind.

Madeira responded July 21 to an email request from the newspaper for comment. He said Pike’s lease expired on May 31 and was already in poor standing due to her failure to pay any rent since December 2022.

“We already went through the process of collecting months of overdue back rent on her behalf from Penquis last year and are under no obligation to enter into a new business arrangement with a tenant who has continually failed to comply with the terms of their lease,” he said.

Waiting lists are lengthy for all types of housing. Some families are living outside in tents.

The Maine State Housing Authority issued a report in 2020 that showed in that year the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Knox County was $1,000 and the median income needed to afford that rent was $40,000. Figures for 2021 and 2022 are not yet available but anecdotal information indicates prices have risen sharply in those pandemic years.

Pike is not alone in facing eviction.

The Sheriff’s offices in Maine are tasked by state law with serving paperwork to people being evicted. The process is for landlords to go to court and get paperwork that must be served to tenants. Court hearings are scheduled, and the judge will order the two parties to meet with a mediator. If no agreement can be reached, a hearing is held.

If the court rules in favor of the landlord, a writ of possession is then issued, which is served to tenants by the Sheriff’s Office, ordering them to leave the premises.

During the first five months of 2022, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office served 25 notices to quit to tenants. Nine writs of possessions were issued by the court and served by the Sheriff’s Office.

And trying to buy a house had already been out of reach for most people with lower incomes. The skyrocketing price of housing has now left many middle class families unable to afford housing in the region. That has created a labor crunch for local businesses as workers are unable to find housing.

For Pike, she does not know what the future holds for her and her family.