Living in suburban New Jersey, some 3,000 miles from home, has proven to be lonely and rife with seemingly inescapable hardship for the family of Jahi McMath, an Oakland teenager who was declared brain dead 14 months ago in California, her home state.

Three weeks ago, McMath’s mother, Nailah Spears-Winkfield, was in a panic because of an impending blizzard, Christopher Dolan, their San Francisco-based attorney, said. Unaccustomed to the snow, she feared the power might go out, shutting off the machines that keep her daughter alive. She had to borrow money from relatives to buy a generator, he said.

More recently the family faced eviction from their apartment in Somerset for non-payment of $3,375 in rent, according to court records.

Dolan said the rent issue was an administrative error but that money for Jahi’s parents is extremely tight, and getting even tighter as the family waits out a controversial legal battle in California to prove that their daughter is not brain dead.

“Nailah is living from hand to mouth,” said Dolan, a high-profile criminal attorney in the Bay Area who is working pro bono for the family.

“She’s out of her element in New Jersey, but that’s the place where they can’t kill her daughter. She has a firm religious conviction that her daughter isn’t dead. You can see the devotion of this mother to her child. This family has given up everything to take care of Jahi.”

The family made national headlines last year after they fought in court to remove McMath from the Oakland Hospital to bring her to New Jersey.

Unlike California, New Jersey accommodates brain-dead patients who belong to a religion that does not accept the diagnosis as a final verdict for death.

McMath’s mother, stepfather, Marvin Winkfield, and her younger sister have been living in the apartment in the Somerset section of Franklin Township since Aug. 15, 2014, court records show. It is here that McMath is hooked up to various machines keep her organs functioning and feed her, Dolan said. She’s under custodial and assisted-nursing care around the clock, he said.

Since the family has been in New Jersey, it has received encouraging news that could pave the way for their return to Oakland. It has been months since she has required any hospital care, he said. New MRI and EEG studies show Jahi does have brain activity, he said. Videos show Jahi responding to requests from her mother to move her hand and foot, he said…

This story comes from a Feb. 13 posting on