Latino tenants in East Palo Alto, a northern California community suffering from lack of income
Laura Rubio is very worried because she owes three months of rent, and she does not know if when the eviction moratorium ends, her clients will call her again at work, and if she will be able to gradually cover the debt of renting her home.
“I am afraid of being evicted. The truth no one expected this, “he admits.
She is a single mother with a college daughter who makes a living cleaning houses, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, she was out of a job from the second week of April. Her clients stopped calling her to come clean their homes.
“Few have called me back to go back to work. The most I’m earning a week is $ 200. I barely have enough for basic expenses, ”she says.
From his own bag he was able to pay the April rent for $ 1,000. The Samaritan House helped him with the May rent.
Laura Rubio affected with unemployment caused by the coronavirus. (Courtesy Manuel Ortiz-Escámez / EMS)
Laura’s concern about a possible eviction from her rental home due to loss of employment and income, and the inability to cover her monthly rent, is suffered by hundreds of Latino families in the city of East Palo Alto, and thousands in almost the entire state of California.
“The owners’ only support is to call people, and tell them they can make partial payments.Laura says.
The Ethnic Media Services organization brought together tenants, East Palo city officials and leaders who advocate for tenants in the conference call “The faces of eviction – East Palo Alto tenants unite to lobby for rent relief.”
East Palo Alto is a city in San Mateo County in Northern California with around 28,000 residents, 70% Hispanic. 52% are tenants, many of them without immigration status, which prevents them from qualifying for federal and state aid.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors extended the eviction moratorium until September 30. Tenants must inform their landlords within 14 days that their ability to pay has been affected by the pandemic.
Laura Rubio helps fill out requests for rental support. (Courtesy Manuel Ortiz-Escámez / ETM)
Activist out of necessity
Without seeking it, given the great need for support to pay the rent, Laura has become an activist for the rights of tenants during this health crisis.
“Many people come to me asking how they can get help. I hear frustrating comments. My response has been that they don’t give up, and keep applying. ”
Trust that there are tenants who owe up to three or four months rent.
“I encourage you to apply to different organizations for help, but people are afraid that they will ask for their children’s social security. ”.
Your daughter helps you fill out applications for rent help.
“I am frustrated to be the voice of other people, and that organizations do not answer.”
He criticized putting people to fill out six sheets for an application for rent help, especially because – he says – there are families that don’t know anything about technology.
Karla, tenant of East Palo Alto with fear of eviction. (Courtesy Manuel Ortiz-Escámez / ETM)
Hector Valencia, a single father of a daughter and son, who lost his construction job because of the health contingency, says it has been quite difficult and frustrating to not be able to pay the rent.
“Almost a month ago, I found another job. I don’t know if I’m going to last there. I have tried to make payments that have accumulated, but it is not enough with all that I owe. I pay $ 1,200 rent. I owe the month of August and a balance ”.
Victor Ramirez, administrator of the City of East Palo Alto’s Income Stabilization program, says they don’t have the exact number of how many families have been unable to pay rent during the pandemic, but a survey of 200 people in late April and the beginning of May, it showed that they were between 25 and 30%.
“We have given $ 100,000 through a contract to the Samaritan House to help with the rent payment. We have already given them $ 50,000, and the rest is conditional on the delivery of a report that we evaluate. The manager will make the decision in the course of the week to deliver the next payment.
One of the conditions the city of East Palo Alto set for aid is to attend per household with a single payment of $ 1,500 per month.
“If they need more assistance, they have to request it again. The funds can be multiplied by the Samaritan House, obtaining resources from other corporations and foundations ”.
The official considers that The real eviction crisis is going to happen when the moratorium expires, and people can’t pay the rent.
“Local ordinance states that tenants have 180 days to pay back rent once the emergency arises.”
Trice Taylor, director of Client Services at Casa Samaritana, points out that they have helped 30 families pay their rent during the pandemic with funds from the city of East Palo Alto, and nearly 70 for three months with other donations. . “We do not ask for immigration status or social security number. “
Walfred Solorzano, city secretary for East Palo Alto, recalls that they extended the moratorium from August 31 to September 30, and if the state of California extends it, it will automatically apply to them.
East Palo Alto, a city between San Francisco and San José, in northern California. (Courtesy Manuel Ortiz-Escámez / ETM)
They fear evictions
Kara Rivera of the Housing Leadership Council states that they have talked with leaders and supervisors to make the moratorium longer, and to extend the payment of overdue rent beyond 180 days, once it is concluded.
“We want San Mateo County to adopt an ordinance where the landlord and tenant negotiate a payment plan. This solution has already been implemented elsewhere. There are other counties like Los Angeles and Alameda that have given 12 months to pay the back rent. ”.
Ofelia Bello of Youth United for Community Action anticipates that when the eviction moratorium expires, and tenants have to pay current rent and debt, serious problems are looming.
“Right now we are protected, but there may be a wave of evictions when it ends. So we want there to be a solution. “
Laura says that no resident deserves to be evicted for being affected by debt acquired during this pandemic. “We all deserve a good night’s sleep and decent housing“