Immigrating together can definitely form a strong bond. Such was the case for Yeimy Moreno and Orlin Salazar, who separately decided to leave their native Honduras in search of a better life to the north. The bond formed put these émigrés on the path to becoming a family, but that did not happen overnight.

Yeimy wound up in the Northern California farming town of Watsonville, which offers a strong Latino immigrant community, while Orlin and his 8-year-old son, Dannis, headed to San Francisco’s Mission for the same reason.

Despite being 100 miles apart, Orlin could not forget Yeimy, so he started an online search — a search that eventually proved successful. A reunion turned into a permanent relationship.

The now close-knit Moreno-Salazar family rented a small bedroom in a three-room apartment on Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco’s Mission District, with the relatively low rent supported by Orlin’s work cleaning restaurants at night, while Yeimy took care of Dannis. All was moving along until the family learned that the building was going to be demolished, effectively being taken off the rental market. The challenge of finding new affordable housing began with this no-fault eviction. Further complicating the situation was that Yeimy had given birth just two months prior to daughter Brittani, which meant this was now a family of four in search of affordable housing in the Bay Area. No easy task.

Yeimy had always been proactive in seeking assistance, which is why she came to Family Success Coach Yadira Diaz, based at Dannis’ school, Cesar Chavez Elementary, one of a quartet of Mission Promise Neighborhood schools. (MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.) Diaz acts as a connector to services in the Mission.

Yeimy feared her family would wind up on the street.

Knowing the difficulty of locating a permanent residence the family could afford — especially when trying to find a landlord open to accepting a housing subsidy — Diaz helped them secure a temporary spot at a Hamilton Families shelter. The search continued, a diligent Yeimy daily scouring Craigslist ads, enlisting the counsel of Diaz on which apartments seemed appropriate for the family. Diaz then passed on the best options to Hamilton Families caseworker Miguel, who ascertained how the housing subsidy could be put to best use.

While this process was taking place, Diaz was busily connecting Yeimy to other services to strengthen her family. When Dannis starting exhibiting behavioral issues, possibly attributed to leaving his homeland, Instituto Familiar de la Raza’s services made sense. The youngster was also awarded a special slot in Jamestown Community Center’s after-school program because of the family being in the extreme situation of being in a shelter; that organization offers age-specific support groups as a means to bettered academic achievement.

Another problem was that Diaz determined the Moreno-Salazar’s were unbanked, an especially egregious issue because they were carrying around money they had received from the landlord when they were evicted. Being unbanked is often an issue with newcomers, who often have an inherent mistrust of their new country’s financial institutions. That’s where MEDA’s Financial Asset Program Manager Jackie Marcelo’s came into play, getting the family set up with an account at Self-Help Federal Credit Union, located in the heart of the Mission and with an ongoing offer of just $5 to open a savings account.

The good news is that the determined family finally found a new home — a rental located in Oakland. This was an exhaustive, eight-month search from the time of the initial eviction notice.

Diaz then connected Yeimy to the Families & Youth in Transition (FYIT) program via SFUSD. FYIT is providing the Moreno-Salazar’s with assistance procuring BART passes, now needed so Dannis can get to school in San Francisco’s Mission, plus uniforms and much more.

Always looking to learn and better her family’s life, Yeimy is also looking to better her English-language skills by taking classes at Good Samaritan Family Resource Center. Additionally, Diaz has connected her to Mission Neighborhood Centers to eventually put her infant daughter in quality child care so that Yeimy can start working outside the home.

“Yeimy is resourceful. She’s a doer. I am proud to be part of a Family Success Coach team for the Mission Promise Neighborhood, connecting families to free, culturally relevant services that will better their lives so their children can succeed in school,” concludes a zealous Diaz.

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About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

 

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“Our bathroom is larger than the one room my two children and I used to share,” says a thankful Juana Martinez of her two-bedroom apartment at brand-new FIVE 88 in San Francisco’s burgeoning Mission Bay.

Juana (photo, right, showing winning lottery ticket) is the devoted mother of sons Eduardo, a seventh-grader at Everett Middle School, and Edwin (photo, center), a fourth-grader at Sanchez Elementary. Back in El Salvador, Juana was concerned that gang violence would soon become part of her children’s lives. So she made the difficult decision to start anew, first heading to Houston in January 2016, and then venturing to San Francisco a year ago. Some cousins and friends advised her of opportunities in the Bay Area, translating to that trip out west.

Their prior rental was that tiny room, far removed from the Mission. Because of the distance, Juana’s children needed to wake up at 5 a.m. to get to school on time. She also knew that the landlord needed her family to soon leave that rental.

To make ends meet, Juana worked six days a week at a restaurant, plus some Sundays at another eatery in Oakland. She was allowed to bring home food, which was a blessing, but her kids weren’t that interested in Italian and Filipino cuisines. These picky eaters longed for rice, beans and homemade tortillas — not easy for Juana to make in a communal kitchen.

Life remained difficult.

An introduction to the  BMR rental process
Juana was introduced to the possibility of a BMR rental via a flier hand delivered by Eduardo; this flier came from Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Roberto Aparicio (photo, left). Based at Everett Middle School, Aparicio personally greets all unaccompanied minors throughout the school year, to make sure newcomer students know a caring adult at the school. This welcoming process also helps Aparicio gauge family and student needs, with the latter always getting a brand-new backpack.

Juana set up a meeting to speak with Aparicio to discuss affordable-housing options, one item denoted on the flier.

Now armed with some information, Juana was connected to MEDA Housing Opportunities Program Manager Juan Diego Castro, who helped her fill out an application for Five 88. It was just two weeks later that Juana received a voicemail from the City, but the only word the monolingual Spanish speaker recognized was “apartment.” So Aparicio came back into the picture, listened to the message and advised Juana that she had won the lottery. Great news, but the work was just beginning.

It was imperative to gather six months of bank statements and pay stubs. When Juana ran into trouble getting pay stubs from one of her employers, the stress built up as the deadline was imminent. Aparicio called the leasing agent at Five 88 and advocated on Juana’s behalf; this led to a few more days being granted, in which time the correct paperwork was received.

Aparicio later counseled Juana to bring a bilingual friend to her initial meeting with the property manager at Five 88, so she enlisted a co-worker named Celida. Aparicio then accompanied Juana to her second such meeting. Everything was now in the works.

A new home
Juana was elated when a week after her meeting with the property manager she received a call that she had qualified. It was time for a tour of Five 88, accompanied by Aparicio. They saw the terrace. The gym. The laundry room.

Then Juana was handed three sets of keys. She was at first confused until it was explained that she could choose from one of a trio of available two-bedroom units. As configurations were fairly similar, Juana asked Aparicio which of the three should she pick. He suggested an apartment that offered a view of the development’s entrance, so that she could see her boys coming into and out of the building.

Now with a stove of her own in an open-concept kitchen, Juana’s children can indulge in those handmade tortillas, loving made from scratch by their mother. The boys have bunkbeds in their own bedroom, and Juana now has the privacy every parent deserves.

Commute times have greatly decreased, older brother Eduardo escorting Edwin to Everett Middle school each weekday, as they both take the MUNI 55 bus line. Juana can get to work much faster, too, meaning more time to spend with her boys.

Life has definitely improved for this Mission Promise Neighborhood family.

Juana advises others seeking affordable housing in San Francisco to know that this could also happen for them. Her main advice:  Make sure your documents are always up to date.

Todo es mejor aquí. Hay esperanza,” exclaims Juana, translated as “Everything is better here. There is hope.”

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About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

 

 

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Most of us have fond memories of reading in the library as a youngster, and with February designated as “National Library Lovers’ Month,” this is the perfect time to reflect on the importance of reading in everyone’s lives. “National Library Lovers’ Month” is a celebration of school, public and private libraries of all types.

At Bryant Elementary School — one of two elementary schools in the Mission Promise Neighborhood — Family Success Coach Dannhae Herrera-Wilson (photo, center) knows that not all Mission Promise Neighborhood families have the tools to foster reading in the home.

“It’s vital that parents take an active role by reading to their children at a young age. This creates a love of books, and simultaneously builds language skills. This is especially important for children from immigrant families, of which there are many in the Mission Promise Neighborhood,” explains Herrera-Wilson.

As part of “National Library Lovers’ Month,” Herrera-Wilson recently brought a group of parents to the San Francisco Main Library.

None of the parents had ever set foot in this monumental building near City Hall at the Civic Center — or any library at all. With a collection of over 3.5 million books, this place can seem daunting. That’s why Herrera-Wilson set up the excursion, gave a tour and ensured parents obtained library cards.

AhmedTour participants included Safa, a native of Yemen, a country she explained  has no libraries for children. Safa applied for a library card, as did her two children. The oldest, her son Ahmed (pictured with his new library card), attends Bryant Elementary School. Safa is looking to start ESL classes at City College.

MaryRose, originally from the Philippines, was also in attendance. MaryRose’s daughter, an ardent reader named Aubry, attends Bryant Elementary. The youngest daughter, 4-year-old Nikki, is looking to start Transitional Kindergarten. “This is a great place. Thank you for bringing us here!” stated MaryRose.

Another parent taken to the library was Luis, originally from Guatemala. The youngest of six children, Luis had only made it as far as third grade because to needed to work the land as a way to help his family survive. Luis’ daughter attends Bryant Elementary. He explained why he took this trip as follows: “I want to get my library card so that I can get books in Spanish and read to my daughter, and she can read books in English to me. I feel like I am learning, just like her. I plan to return with my two children and make it a family experience.”

Herrera-Wilson also made sure to avail the parents of the venue’s growing eLibrary, especially eLearning materials that can assist students. This ties into Making Connections, a digital literacy course for parents that teaches how to use myON, an online reading platform for students. Last fall, the Mission Promise Neighborhood was asked to partner with SFUSD to lead the Making Connections program. Ana Avilez, a mother to two young children of her own, now spearheads this initiative, bridging the eLearning divide for Mission Promise Neighborhood families. Ana builds courses for parents and goes directly into schools to provide access to supplementary tools for the home, so that all students can continue building their literary skills.

Such work is vital, with the statistics showcasing the need for families. At an early age, only 8.6 percent of 3-year-olds in the Mission Promise Neighborhood meet Desired Results Development Profile (DRDP) standards for English-language ability. Once in elementary school, 15 percent of third-grade students (compared to 48 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in English-language arts, while 22 percent of fifth-grade students (compared to 55 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in the same category.

Today’s excursion was a step in the right direction, Herrera-Wilson acting as a connector to resources, as she does every day. As with any movement, those initial steps can lead to much bigger things, especially as participants go back in the community and tell of their experience.

Summing up why this outing was so important to Mission Promise Neighborhood families, Herrera-Wilson, a first-generation immigrant from Nicaragua, stated, “My desire to advocate for, empower and work with low-income families, immigrant families and multicultural families is fueled by my strong conviction that access to education is a human right regardless of race, or economic or legal status. I particularly enjoy working with women and children because I witness their vulnerability and at the same time recognize their potential, which can be beyond their imagination.”

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About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More

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