A group of women who have lived in San Francisco for 27 years are on the brink of homelessness just before the holidays, even after winning a coveted spot in an affordable housing unit. As it turns out, they earn too little and a city subsidy that might have helped didn’t make it into the budget.
The two non-profits working with the women are still hoping to get Mayor Lee to allocate the funding that would keep Lorena Moz and her family – as well as 13 others who have recently come to one of the non-profits for similar aid – off the streets.
Moz, the youngest of the women, said her aunt is already beginning to despair after a string of disappointments, but she herself is still holding on to hope.
“I have faith in God that something will work out,” she said.
So far, the mayor’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
Up until now, Moz, her mother, and her two aunts have lived together in a three-bedroom apartment in the Mission District. The collapse of a family business coupled with an eviction from their home combined to spell disaster for the family.
It wasn’t a disaster of their own making. Moz’ aunt, Hilda, operated Nature’s Sunshine, a natural healthcare business at Mission and 22nd streets until January 28, 2015 when a fire destroyed the building, killing one man, displacing dozens of residents and business owners.
That loss meant a precipitous drop in the family’s income. Moz, who looks after her mother, earns a meager $500 a month for the in-home care she provides and the three seniors together receive about $1,800 a month in Social Security benefits. Their rent for the Mission three-bedroom is $1,200 a month.
But last year, Moz’s landlord filed an eviction. To get any relocation money, the family must be out of the apartment by the end of the month. They will not even have one last Christmas together in their home, said Moz. Instead, they are already moving out, packing their belongings to store with friends. For the immediate future they will be able to stay with a friend, but it is a crowded – and therefore temporary – situation.
“We don’t have any place to go,” said Moz. “I’m looking for apartments on the internet, but everything is either already rented or really expensive. It’s very expensive in San Francisco.”
Moz hasn’t just been looking on the internet, however. With the help of the Mission Economic Development Agency and the Q Foundation, she has been applying to every below-market-rate housing opportunity she can find.
She even secured a certificate of preference that gives them priority over other applicants. But without the business, the family’s income is actually too low to qualify for many “affordable” housing units that would accommodate them. Though they won a placement for unit on Potrero Avenue, they cannot accept it because they don’t have the income.
Enter the Q Foundation, which runs a housing subsidy program for senior and disabled San Franciscans. Brian Basinger, the executive director there, hoped the subsidy of $500 a month would allow the family to accept the housing placement they were offered and move in. But with a restructuring of the city budget, Basinger said, those subsidies were not funded and the family is out of luck.
“It looks like they have officially lost it. I don’t know if there’s any Hail Mary,” Basinger said.
An expansion of the subsidy program was expected from the November ballot Proposition K, which was a proposed sales tax increase. But it failed to pass.
As a result, the additional subsidy money for those on the verge of homelessness, some $3.1 million, ended up on the chopping block, according to Basinger. But the subsidies, he said, would have really worked.
“This is something that the solution is super super simple, it’s not rocket science,” he said. “You throw money at it. Just throw money into these subsidies, and guess what? People aren’t homeless.”
With $500 a month from the city, Basinger said, Moz and her mother and aunts would have been able to live in the apartment they had qualified for. Without it, their options are essentially to couch surf as a family with three elderly women or to cram into an SRO room.
MEDA’s Juan Diego Castro, who has been helping the women with the technical aspects of applying for housing, said they will continue to apply for housing placements and try to find solutions in San Francisco.
“We’re kind of facing the reality that the only option for them to stay in San Francisco might be a short term hotel,” Castro said. “Outside of San Francisco is obviously not ideal…This is where their faith community is, where their medical support system is, they’ve lived here for 25 years.”