In a show of support and protest on Monday, over 90 community members, local faith groups, and neighbors gathered for a vigil in front of 365 Peoria Street in Daly City, where three families are being evicted for no reason right before the holidays.
Most of the families in the four-unit building in Daly City have lived in their apartments for over a decade. Their small children are in local schools and their jobs are nearby. During their tenancies, the families have been forced to make their own repairs and provide other maintenance to the property when the landlord was unresponsive to requests to fix things. The families were forced to use their own money, time, and resources to make repairs in their units.
As a final blow to these hardworking families, the landlord, who owns several properties in San Francisco, Daly City, and Hayward, served eviction notices on all four units in the building. When tenants asked for an explanation, the landlord refused to respond.
The families are overwhelmed with anxiety as they contemplate having no home in which to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. The tenants, who have known each other for more than a decade, traditionally celebrate Christmas together—sharing meals, exchanging gifts, and enjoying each other’s company. “This is really bad timing,” said Roberto, a Filipino immigrant, who has lived in the building for more than a decade. “Kicking us out for no reason is bad enough, but doing it right before the holidays is heartless.”
The residents of this complex have found an extended family in each other. When Paloma, a tenant on the first floor and mother of three, had surgery several years ago, Zulma, who lives in another unit upstairs, brought her food in the hospital and helped make sure the children were bathed and fed. The two mothers often cook together—making elaborate meals of pupusas, enchiladas, and sopa de gallina. “We are not just neighbors,” said Paloma. “We are a family. We take care of each other.”
The young families fear that the threat of homelessness will traumatize their young children who attend local schools. Roberto feels their anxiety keenly: “At least my children are grown. But Paloma and Zulma have babies. What will they do? Will the children have to change schools in the middle of the school year and adjust to a new environment where they don’t know anyone?” Zulma fought back tears as she describes the pressure she feels to reassure her children during this difficult time, “We have to hold in our feelings and our frustrations, to give our children a sense of balance. I keep telling my kids, everything will be okay.”
Still, the neighbors are supporting each other and, on their good days, maintain a sense of brave determination. “People think that, because we are working class, we are uneducated and don’t know anything,” said Roberto. “But we are fighting back.” When asked what message he wanted to convey to others in the community who may be facing eviction, he said, “Don’t be afraid. Ask for help. Take things step by step. You will find that bright light.”
In California, landlords can evict tenants for no reason, no matter how long they have lived in their home or how strong their ties are to the surrounding community. Community advocates have been fighting for tenant protections that would change these rules so that people like Paloma, Roberto, and Zulma, can have a stable home to raise their families.