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20 Central Valley overwhelmed by evictions amid pandemic

In the Central Valley, not only do tenants pay more than half of their income in rent, but they face the highest eviction rates; and minority women with children have been disproportionately affected by home evictions.

Jessica Ramírez, a mother of six children, experienced an eviction and was forced to live on the streets.

“For no reason, they gave me a warning to leave early in the pandemic. When you go to court to defend yourself so that you are not thrown out of your home, it does not matter how much evidence you bring. I ended up on the street, living in the car with a newborn child ”.

Fresno resident Jessica gave her eviction testimony during the video conference “High Eviction Rates in California: Central Valley Tenants Push for Housing Rights”, Organized by Ethnic Media Services.

Thanks to meeting someone from the Faith of the Valley organization, he was able to get a roof again. “No parent should choose between housing and the health of their children. Every person needs to have a house, ”he says.

Living in the car is very painful for the homeless. (.)

The street, a nightmare

Claude Bailey, an African-American senior living in the Central Valley city of Stockton, had to leave his apartment where he lived for more than 20 years, when he was told he no longer qualified for Section 8, the subsidy program. to low-income housing.

“I had always paid on time. I didn’t use drugs, I’m a church minister. But I had to leave when they gave me a date to vacate. I found a place where they treated me very badly. I left the place and lived in my car for six months. « 

His life in his car describes it as a nightmare.

« I couldn’t sleep or relax. He lived in fear. Every time I wanted to sleep, the police told me that I couldn’t be there. Sometimes there were thugs who harassed and robbed me. I always had to move, and wander from one place to another ”.

Claude says he lost a lot of weight. I didn’t want to eat so I wouldn’t have to use a bathroom. « The businesses did not let me enter to use the toilet. »

Not having a home, admits that it hurt a lot.

« I would tell God, « You have to help me, I can’t do this alone. » I at least had a car to sleep in, but I saw women with families sleeping on the street. Sometimes the guards go and just take away the cardboard where they sleep and leave them cold”.

Claude says that what he went through can happen to anyone.

« Life is a circle. One day you are upstairs, another on the street. I ask you something, take care of the elderly. They have built this country, paid their taxes, raised families ”.

Fresno wages among the lowest in the state. .

Lack of equality

Professor Edward Orozco of the University of California at Merced, said that the Central Valley of California despite the economic growth it has experienced, offers very low wages. As a result, few people own homes, and the homes are inhabited by multiple families.

Within this framework, there is an eviction crisis because many workers have lost their jobs; and half of the homes have had a reduction in income.

« In the Central Valley only 54% of families are homeowners. This is the lowest rate in the United States. In Fresno, it is even less than 47.4%. Part of the reason is that there are the second lowest salaries in the state ”.

And he explains that jobs in the Central Valley are essential in agriculture or food processing that pay less. « People cannot not only own their home, but they do not have the ability to buy their own food and are dependent on food stamps. »

Add that essential workers are burdened with rent, as they pay 30% of their income in rent; others up to 50%.

It is very difficult for essential workers to buy a home and pay the high rents in the Central Valley. (.)

Low wages

Blanca Ojeda, a community organizer for Faith in the Valley, related the case of a mother who was helped to find a home, after she and her family were on . of being left on the street, when in the middle of the pandemic, the stable where the husband worked, changed ownership.

“The stable provided them with a trailer home to live in, but the new owner asked them to vacate. When they realized that with what they were earning they were not going to be able to pay for the rent of a house anywhere, we were able to help them find an accessible place to live ”.

Unfortunately – he says – these kinds of stories are very common in the Central Valley for undocumented workers.

“There are many resources available, but they cannot request them. So we are going to see a wave of evictions and we have to prepare. « 

Evictions affect credit for up to 10 years. (Courtesy)

Like nowhere

Janine Nkosi, regional counselor for the Fresno-based community organization Faith in the Valley, said there are more evictions in the Central Valley than anywhere else in California.

“Decisions to evict them are literally being made in minutes and people are being left homeless. Additionally, there is a huge disparity in legal representation in Fresno. While 73% of rental home owners have an eviction attorney, only 1% of tenants have an advocate. If people don’t have a lawyer, the law is of no use”.

Nationally, Nkosi estimates that 28 million tenants are at risk of falling into the cliff of evictions if they are not helped.

« In California we have protection against evictions until January 31 and we hope that before January the proposal of Assemblyman David Chiu that prohibits homeowners from evicting tenants damaged by the pandemic will be approved until December 31, 2021. »

On the other hand, they are working to eliminate the impact of eviction on credit history in California. « It lasts 7 years in the registration of home launches and the credit affects you 10 years; but we also want them to have the right to a lawyer”.

The resources that tenants have to seek help in the Central Valley are:

https://www.centralcallegal.org and CRLA: https://www.crla.org

If you want to sign a petition to support renters and homeowners affected by the pandemic, go to:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd3GLS1oiPbh_OvNGZCG5_3oyG43kNsFJm9euh_BYcUQXuxDA/viewform