por Adriana Jones Lima

(English follows Spanish)

La familia Arriola Hernández vino a los Estados Unidos en los noventas y es originalmente de la Ciudad de México. Refugio llegó primero a los EEUU a continuar sus estudios y luego mandó por su esposa, Elvira.  A poco tiempo Refugio aprendió que la vida estadounidense cuesta mucho y se encontró con la necesidad de trabajar por tiempo completo.

Años después, Carmen la hermana de Elvira vino a San Francisco para reunirse con su ella y su esposo, y los tres compartieron un apartamento en 656-48 Capp St. Aquí en San Francisco, Carmen conoció a su esposo Mario Hernández y los dos se movieron a un studio debajo del apartamento de su hermana Elvira.

La familia Arriola le gusta vivir en La Mission por la cultura y se siente muy agusto porque puede hablar su propio lenguaje, y ir de compras en tiendas y supermercados que llevan productos como los que conoce en México. También viven en una locación perfecta, están localizados muy cerca de transporte público y no necesita coche.  

Elvira y Refugio tienen dos hijas Gloria y Jessica. Gloria asiste John O’Connell High y Jessica en Cesar Chavez Elementary. Las dos escuelas son parte de La Comunidad Promesa de la Mission. En Cesar Chavez, la familia Arriola conocio a Yadira Diaz (foto, tercer derecha), Guia de Éxito Familiar de la Comunidad Promesa de La Mission. Elvira es una mamá voluntaria. Desde el 2006 Elvira es voluntaria en Cesar Chavez ayudando a las maestras en preparara sus materiales para la clases también es voluntaria en Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 y John O’Connell High School. También apoya a  Diaz cuando ofrece talleres de servicios a los padres. Elvira también es la vice-presidenta de ELAC (English Learners Advisory Council). Jessica y Gloria aprecian mucho a Elvira y les gusta pasar tiempo de calidad con sus mama y recibir su apoyo en la escuela. La familia Arriola Hernandez tiene una gran presencia en la Mission. Refugio, Carmen, y Mario trabajan en limpieza en la ciudad. Carmen también vende sus ricos tamales en el corazón de la Misión, y su esposo le ayuda a prepararlos.

Después de 20 años de vivir en su hogar en la Mission la familia recibió una carta explicando que la dueña iba poner el edificio en venta. La familia Arriola Hernández es testigo del desalojo que está sucediendo en La Mission y tenía miedo que su futuro sería igual a los 8,000 Latinos que han sido desalojado de sus casas desde el 2000. La carta del dueño del edificio llegó como un golpe a la familia, rompiendo su tranquilidad con la realización que tal vez podría  ser desalojado de su hogar.

Refugio recuerda ese momento muy difícil, “no podíamos dormir ni comer. Me despertaba cada noche a las 2 o 3 de la mañana pensando en el futuro de mi familia. Pensé que nuestra única opción era volver a México.” El gran miedo de Refugio y Elvira era de quitarles a sus hijas la única casa que conocían y empezar un vida nueva en México.   

Elvira confió en  Diaz durante ese momento difícil para encontrar una solución.  Diaz refirió a la familia al equipo de Bienes Raíces de la Comunidad en MEDA. Después de su primera cita en MEDA la familia Arriola Hernandez empezó a trabajar con MEDA para comprará el edificio donde vivían. La familia organizaron a todos los inquilinos para pedirle a los dueños del edificio que vendieran a MEDA. Después de mucho trabajo escribiendo cartas y haciendo llamadas a los dueños el edificio se le vendió a MEDA, y se formó parte del programa “Small Sites.

Juan Diego Castro, de MEDA, explicó que la familia tomó la gran responsabilidad de organizar a los inquilinos para que MEDA pudiera comprar el edificio y asegurarse que los inquilinos no fueran desalojados. La familia Arriola Hernandez les daba esperanza a los inquilinos en ese momento difícil y siempre estaban al tanto comunicando los procesos de la venta

Después que MEDA compró el edificio, Refugio todavía recordaba lo sucedido y cómo su edificio tenía un rótulo de venta. Refugio y Castro de MEDA quitaron el anuncio juntos. Al final, Refugio y su familia pudieron dormir sin miedo y pudieron seguir sus vidas. Necesitamos crear más oportunidades para familias como la familia Arriola Hernández en la Misión, esta familia forma un componente importante de nuestra comunidad.

A Determined Family is Strengthened

The Arriola Hernandez family moved to the United States in the 1990s from Mexico City. Refugio Arriola was the first one to move to the U.S., seeking to continue his studies. The newcomer quickly learned that life in his adopted homeland was very expensive, forcing him to spend much of his time working just to keep pace. Once settled, he was reunited with his wife, Elvira, in San Francisco.

A few years later, Elvira’s sister, Carmen, also moved to San Francisco to live with her sister and brother-in-law. The three shared an apartment at 656-48 Capp St. Carmen later met her husband, Mario Hernandez, and the pair moved into a studio on a floor below her sister.

The Arriola family enjoys living in the Mission because of the culture: They feel comfortable here because they have the ability to speak their native language, plus go shopping in stores and supermarkets that carry products found back home in Mexico. Their apartment is in a perfect location, as living within walking distance to public transportation allows them to get around the city without the expense of owning a vehicle.

Elvira and Refugio have two daughters attending Mission Promise Neighborhood schools: Gloria attends John O’Connell High School; and Jessica is a student at Cesar Chavez Elementary School. While volunteering at Cesar Chavez, Elvira met MPN Family Success Coach Yadira Diaz (photo, third right). Looking to give back to her community, Elvira has volunteered at Cesar Chavez elementary school since 2006, helping teachers prepare materials for class, plus supporting Diaz in the connection of families to free services. Additionally, Elvira also generously volunteers her time at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 (part of MPN’s planned expansion) and at John O’Connell; she even serves as vice president of ELAC (English Language Learners Advisory Council). Her daughters appreciate having their mom’s presence on their campuses, and all of the support she provides them in school. Refugio, Carmen and Mario work as janitors in the city, but on weekends Carmen and Mario also sell their delicious homemade tamales in the heart of the Mission. Clearly, the Arriola Hernandez family has big a presence in the community.

Unfortunately, life in that Mission became more complicated when, after two decades of living in their apartment, the family received a letter explaining that the owners were putting the building up for sale. The Arriola Hernandez family was fearful for their future, as they had already seen the displacement taking place around them in the Mission. They hoped their lives would not change like the 8,000 Latinos that have been displaced from the Mission since 2000.

Refugio looks back on this difficult time and laments, “I couldn’t sleep or eat. I would wake up around 2 or 3 in the morning thinking about the future of my family. I thought our only option would be to return to Mexico.” The family’s biggest fear was being compelled to remove their daughters from the only home they had known to have them start life anew in Mexico.

Seeking a solution, Elvira reached out to Diaz, who connected the family to MPN partner MEDA’s Community Real Estate team. After their very first visit with MEDA, the Arriola Hernandez family took their first steps in working with MEDA so the nonprofit could buy the building via the City’s Small Sites Program. The family worked tirelessly to organize the neighbors in the building to ask the current owners to sell the building to MEDA. After much tenant hard work, letter writing and phone calls to the owners, the latter finally decided to sell the six-unit building to MEDA.

Community Real Estate Project Assistant Juan Diego Castro explained that the family took on the responsibility of organizing the neighbors so that MEDA could buy the building and ensure that the tenants would not be displaced. The Arriola Hernandez family gave hope to the tenants during this difficult time, and remained to committed throughout the entire process. Without their help, none of this would have been possible.

After MEDA bought the building, Refugio remembers taking down the large “For Sale” sign in front of the building — a sign that had caused everyone so much stress. Finally the Arriola Hernandez family could sleep without fear and continue their lives in the Mission.

The opportunity gap needs to be closed for families, like this one, in the Mission, for they are an important part of our community. We need families like the Arriola Hernandezes, the thread that keeps the Mission together. They give back to the community and help make the Mission a brighter place to live.

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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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