At a time when the public is being asked to stay home due to the pandemic, some renters worry about eviction while others are being pushed out of their housing in the City of Long Beach.
As the pandemic continues, many have lost their jobs and face economic hardship. According to the Employment Development Department’s Labor Market Information, the unemployment rate in Long Beach was 20.4% in April of 2020 and increased to 20.8% in May. Preliminary information regarding the unemployment rate for June 2020 states that it has decreased to 19.5%, in comparison to June 2019 when the unemployment rate was 4.5%.
In order to help those who have been financially impacted by the pandemic, the Long Beach City Council approved an eviction moratorium for lack of payment in late March and that was extended recently until the end of September.
With the community in mind, The Long Beach Tenants Union created the BIPOC Housing Rescue Fund.
The Long Beach Tenants Union was launched in Dec. 2017 by organizers who wanted to create a collective tenant voice in the city of Long Beach. The union lay dormant to restrategize for a good portion of 2019, but due to the economic impacts of the pandemic ailing the community, organizers and activists reconnected under the Long Beach Tenants Union, according to Michael Belous who is part of the union.
The rescue fund was created on GoFundMe on July 14 by Belous and Maria Lopez, director of community organizing for Housing Long Beach, a local non-profit working to “improve, preserve and increase affordable housing,” according to the organization’s Facebook.
“[The fund] was created due to the life-threatening impacts of the pandemic and widespread unemployment that has many Long Beach renters now more than ever on the verge of being pushed out,” Belous said in a statement to the Signal Tribune.
According to Belous, the fund is meant to combat renters being pushed out of their housing by using grassroots tactics to raise funds. These funds will go directly to tenants who connect with the Long Beach Tenants Union.
The money donated to the fund is intended to be used for the following:
• Security Deposits
• Hygiene Supplies
“These tenants are either currently fighting eviction or have recently been pushed out,” Belous said. “Funds raised will be distributed to all community members with a focus on marginalized voices. It was created by LBTU organizers and Housing Long Beach staff who are tenants and part of the union.”
One such tenant is Rosa Marina Lima, a 67-year-old Long Beach resident for over 17 years, whose primary job has been as a child care provider and has been displaced at least two times during the pandemic.
According to Lima, she currently has temporary housing after having to leave the room she was renting at a friend’s house following a disagreement. Lima first moved in after being pushed out by her former landlord who was also her employer.
In an interview with the Signal Tribune conducted in Spanish, Lima said that her landlord became unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic therefore could no longer afford to employ her as a live-in nanny.
“I rented a room with them and thank god they didn’t charge me rent at a high cost because I worked with them taking care of their son,” Lima said. Her monthly rent payment was $300 every month according to the Long Beach resident.
“My room was large and really nice. I would save up my money and pay them monthly. I didn’t make much, but I was happy because I had a job and guaranteed housing.”
“They could no longer keep me,” Lima continued. “They had to pay a mortgage, so they had to bring in another person who could pay them more in rent so they could keep moving forward,” she said in an understanding tone.
Lima began renting a vacant room at a friend’s household, but according to the 67-year-old caretaker, that lasted 4 months.
“Anytime [my friend] would get home from work she would tell me that the manager didn’t want me living there and that their rent was going to be raised,” Lima said; something that became overwhelming for her. According to the 67-year-old caretaker, after a disagreement, she was told to leave. Lima received support from friends and her church community and connected with Lopez, who has been organizing some of the aid for Lima through Housing LB. Case management assistance is being provided by Housing LB staff, according to Belous.
“The immediate need was to find temporary housing for Rosa due to her being a female immigrant elder and more susceptible to harm and COVID,” Belous said. “That was accomplished the same day we connected with her. The second step was to create a plan to get her re-housed in a safe space where she can thrive plus help her be set for 2-3 months so that she can have a chance at recreating her life/home at the age of 67.”
Belous continued, “We are blessed to have dynamic community members that have provided everything [Lima] needs while in this temporary housing, alleviating some worries for [Lima].”
Aside from a son in law and a grandson who recently came from Guatemala, Lima doesn’t have any other family in California.
Lima’s story was shared by the Long Beach Tenants Union, who according to Belous, is helping organize “around the betterment of the tenant,” through an Instagram post on July 14, where they also shared the BIPOC Housing Rescue Fund link to not only help Lima but use the fund as a “broader community support fund.”
View this post on Instagram
✨La Señora Rosa🌹 A joyful and hardworking elder. From Guatemala/ Monolingual Spanish speaker Has lived in Long Beach for 20+ years. She has predominantly worked as a caregiver and community child care provider. … .. She was working as an in home nanny when COVID 19 struck and her employer could no longer keep her. Yet her employer was also her landlord and since they weren’t going to be getting the rent from her to pay their mortgage, they decided it be easier to push her out. … … At 67 pushed out onto the streets. We can’t continue to let this happen. We won’t continue to let this happen. Please share the Gofundme in the bio & lets get Rosa housed!!! ✊🏽 #rentersrising #LbRenterPower
As of publishing time, The BIPOC Housing Rescue Fund has raised about $3,360 that will go directly to Lima (minus the GoFundMe fees), according to Belous.
“That really only helps us get her a room plus put down the deposit. We hope to raise approximately $7,000 more to make sure we can accomplish the plan,” Belous said.
Belous said in a statement to the Signal Tribune, that the number of residents getting in touch with Housing LB has skyrocketed in recent times.
“In efforts to be able to handle the impact, the Long Beach Tenants Union has begun connecting leaders to do organizing,” Belous said.
For the time being, both organization’s continued assistance to Lima has helped bring some relief to the 67-year-old community care-giver.
“Everything is good,” Lima said of the temporary housing she’s currently living in, “Everything is peaceful[…].”