MEDA and Mission Promise Neighborhood are fulfilling our vision by keeping families in San Francisco via connections to viable options for stable and affordable housing. We are solving the affordable-housing crisis through collective solutions. In addition to connecting families to eviction-protection services and the below-market-rate (BMR) apartment lottery, Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coaches connect families to affordable housing that MEDA is purchasing through the City of San Francisco’s innovative Small Sites Program. To date, MEDA has purchased 20 buildings comprising 128 homes and 16 commercial spaces — with all units kept affordable. Nearly 30 Mission Promise Neighborhood families have been housed as part of this program.

Due to the skyrocketing cost of housing and no new affordable housing having been built, the Mission District saw 8,000 Latinos displaced since the year 2000 — over 25 percent of this community. Since Mission Promise Neighborhood began working in schools, the student mobility rate has actually gone down, from 13.9 percent in 2012 to 7.9 percent in 2017. Student mobility reflects when students unexpectedly change schools, often as a result of eviction or other changes in housing. Stability is important to academic performance, adolescent development, and students’ relationships with peers and teachers. In addition to Causa Justa :: Just Cause, Mission Promise Neighborhood partner La Raza Centro Legal has been key in helping inform our families of their tenants’ rights.

One family’s story
Elena Macario emigrated from Guatemala in 2001, making San Francisco her new home. She dreamt of a better life, despite initially living in cramped quarters with her parents and three brothers on Revere Avenue in the Bayview.

In 2014, her firstborn Jonathan joined the Bryant Elementary School family upon his entering kindergarten. Bryant is one of a duo of Mission District elementary schools in which the Mission Promise Neighborhood has a focus. Life was moving along just fine.

The situation changed for the worse in early 2016 when the family was faced with an all-too-common issue for Mission Promise Neighborhood families: securing affordable and stable housing. That’s because Elena and her children (Jonathan has a brother, Darwin, two years his junior) were vulnerable to losing their home, even though she invariably paid her share of the monthly rent. Turns out two of Elena’s three siblings failed to pay their share each month, thereby making all residents a target for eviction by the landlord. After receiving several warnings of eviction by the verbally intimidating owner, Elena hesitantly accepted a monetary offer to voluntarily vacate the premises — an offer she accepted solely to prevent having to go through an eviction ordeal.

Elena was fearful for her family, uncertain she had made the right choice. That’s when she quickly pivoted and turned that fear into action.

Elena sought the assistance of Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Luis Ostolaza, who strengthens families at Bryant Elementary School. Ostolaza offered culturally relevant information on tenants’ rights in San Francisco, referring Elena to community-based organization Causa Justa :: Just Cause for additional support.

Causa Justa :: Just Cause helped Elena find a pro bono lawyer who alleviated her concerns by explaining that the prospective time frame was around one year for an eviction to occur in San Francisco. He also helped her wade through the steps of the typical eviction process, later representing Elena during her October 2016 eviction trial.

Knowing there was a year before an eviction could take place, Ostolaza began working with Elena on applying for BMR lotteries in San Francisco. Additionally, he helped her garner a Displaced Tenant Housing Preference (DTHP) — based on her being evicted — which offers far better chances of winning the BMR lottery.

The other part of the equation was getting Elena rental ready, which meant bettering her credit and building savings for the required security deposit.

The good news? At the end of December, Elena was called in for an interview for a BMR apartment at Trinity Phase 2 at 1190 Market St. Ostolaza accompanied her to the property to complete the final step of her BMR rental application.

A few weeks later, Elena was contacted with good news: Her household was selected for a one-bedroom BMR apartment.

Now with a signed rental contract, Elena says, “I can’t believe I now have a place for my kids and me to rest and study.”

 

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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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Email
info@missionpromise.org
 
Phone
(866) 379-7758
 
Address
2301 Mission Street
Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94110

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