Keeping Thousands Housed During the Pandemic
“I was behind in rent ever since the pandemic started,” says Emma, one of Catholic Charities' thousands of rental assistance clients who lives with her teenage daughter in a small, one-bedroom apartment near Candlestick Park. “During shelter-in-place, I lost both my jobs and by the time my first unemployment check arrived in June, my rent was already three months overdue, and my landlord was threatening to evict us. I needed help.”
Emma turned to Catholic Charities. Gloria del Mar Garcia Lemus, Catholic Charities case manager, answered Emma’s phone call. Listening to numerous stories from families who have lost their jobs and are now struggling to pay rent, Lemus practices compassion and finds sustenance from two words on the cover of her notebook: Be Kind.
“Families are facing unbearable financial burdens,” Lemus says. “They have used up their savings and are facing eviction. In addition to assistance with their emergency rent subsidy applications, we provide them with emotional support.”
When Lemus recently informed Emma that her application was approved and would cover her next two months of rent, Emma breathed a huge sigh of relief. “I am so grateful. This will help my family.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Catholic Charities has received more than 10,000 rental assistance applications from residents in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties. Phone-lines and emails are flooded with requests for help. This dire need locally is reflected nationwide as an astonishing 7.9 million tenants revealed in a U.S. Census Bureau survey that they had “little or no confidence” in their ability to pay next month’s rent.
With the assistance of our valued partners from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, United Way Bay Area, the City of San Francisco, and the State of California, we have helped thousands of Bay Area people in need, and still, there are thousands more who need help.
Lemus is thankful she can serve so many people each day. She and her fellow case managers at Catholic Charities Mission District office have erected a small Hope and Gratitude Tree adorned with thank you notes from individuals like Emma. The notes hearten and remind Lemus, “We’re playing an important role. We are in this together.”
Indeed, together, we can accomplish the remarkable.