At least four families of the 65 residents and children displaced in the four-alarm fire will be moving this weekend to duplexes in Treasure Island – a destination met with gratitude and ambivalence.
“It’s out of the way… in Treasure Island. We have lived in the city the whole time,” said José Gonzalez, who used to live in unit 312, will be moving with his two children and wife.
Although the house is nice, he added, “We don’t have another option, so we have to take it. We need to rest for the meantime.”
Since being displaced from their apartments on Jan. 28th, residents have been staying at the Salvation Army on Valencia where they have received assistance from the Red Cross and an outpouring of support from the community that has donated clothes, meals and money . Others have found shelter with friends or extended family.
With the uncertainty of whether and when the building will be renovated – some tenants have been told it would take at least two years for the building to be repaired – officials are helping residents to move into duplexes on Treasure Island.
For Gonzalez’s wife and children, however, it will be tough to adapt. “It’s another life,” he said. His wife used to work in the Salvadorean restaurant Los Antojitos, located on the first floor of the building. Now, with no job, and unable to drive kids to school into the city, they have to figure out bus routes to make it to school just before 8 a.m..
The family’s used Red Cross vouchers to furnish the house and now they are worried about getting a washer and dryer because there are no laundromats on Treasure Island, he said.
Araceli Tolama, who lived at 317 with her two children is now staying with her sister in the city, but she is looking on her own because Treasure Island is too far for her. She has no car and the logistics would be impossible, but she’s also getting desperate. “Not one apartment I’ve looked accepts children,” she said. “They will take dogs or cats, but no children.” Treasure Island might be her only option.
Yanira Sanchez, who lived in 304, worried that she would be left on her own in finding housing because of her subtenant status.
This weekend, however, she will be moving in with the Gil family into one of the duplexes in Treasure Island at a rent rate much similar to what she used to pay.
Sanchez and the Gil family were given a month-to-month lease for a 3-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms, living room, kitchen and a backyard for $1190. “It’s fine, it’s pretty,” said Sanchez with a cheerless voice.
Sanchez works the night shift at the Potrero Whole Foods and with her boss, they are tweaking her schedule so she can make it to work on time. “It will take me about an hour and 26 minutes,” she said of the commute by bus, compared to the 15 minutes it used to take her before her home burned down.
Although her boss considered changing her schedule to the weekend, Sanchez said it wouldn’t work because Muni works slowest during the weekends.
“My boss said he would help me out with my schedule until I can stabilize,” she said.
The upside to being in Treasure Island, Sanchez said, is that she will be allowed to have her dog Charlie in the house. “It’s an enormous emotional help.”