Work to end homelessness in San Benito County has just begun

Dear Editor:
Thank you and your reporter Kollin Kosmicki for your Nov. 15,
story on the homeless situation in our county. I hope and pray that
your article will help spark the outrage required to have our
elected representatives, churches, service organizations and
citizens move now to address this crisis.
Dear Editor:

Thank you and your reporter Kollin Kosmicki for your Nov. 15, story on the homeless situation in our county. I hope and pray that your article will help spark the outrage required to have our elected representatives, churches, service organizations and citizens move now to address this crisis.

As Mr. Kosmicki detailed, the homeless in our county are not a homogenous population; in fact, it is their very variety that I believe presents the challenge.

Yes, some of the individuals are without work, food, family, health and home. For these people, we need a homeless shelter as a part of an integrated social services plan to help address their needs.

But the destitute homeless are only a fraction of the homeless population in our county. Instead, San Benito County is home to a large number of homeless people who are employed, educated, of reasonable health and have local family and friends. Many of these people would rather sleep in their car than tell their friends that they have no housing. They are people of great pride and dignity. For these people, a homeless shelter is not the answer. The answer is affordable rental housing.

In providing information for your article, I did not share the most unbelievably tragic story of all. My family has a dear friend, “Jane,” whom we have known for over a decade. Jane and her family moved to our county in the 1950s. She has been married more than 40 years. For 24 years, her family rented a country home, raising a large family. Jane and her family were excellent renters, to which the length of their tenancy attests.

She and her husband both work locally full time. He has been employed by a local industrial concern for more than 20 years. On the side, he is a musician of some distinction. When I met her, Jane was an employee of the state social services system; her reputation and integrity so high that she was bonded by the state. Her grown children are all employed, further contributing to San Benito County’s economic base.

Three years ago, Jane arrived unannounced at my office, totally traumatized. Her landlord was evicting her family due to structural problems with the house; it needed a new foundation. I have seen Jane experience many travails in life, including family death, illness and other sorrows, but this is the only time I have ever seen her cry.

So severe was this trauma, that the next day Jane suffered a small stroke. Her physician forbade her to work for two months.

Upon eviction, Jane and her family were scattered. She and her husband, both older than 60, slept on the floor at a relatives’ home for over eight months. In offering this hospitality, the relative risked eviction as well. The entire time, Jane’s family searched for affordable rental housing.

I contacted friends in the real estate industry, but they were unable to help. The problem? Unlike those of us who live on credit, Jane’s family does not borrow money. No checking account. No credit cards. They pay cash for everything. They therefore have no credit history. Without a credit history, my real estate friends could not help.

As the months wore on, Jane was forced to give up her beloved pets. Time after time, her hopes were raised at the prospect of a home to rent. Deposits were taken, repainting underway. And time after time, her hopes were shattered; at the last minute, a friend or family member of the landlord would take the rental.

Finally, Jane’s family obtained a rental, but not for long. Within a few short months, they were evicted again, because the landlord wanted to sell. And again, Jane and her husband were forced to live with friends.

During this time, Jane’s family managed to save $15,000 toward a downpayment. They hoped to purchase a home, and thereby do away with the rental issue. But they found that it was impossible to find an acceptable home they could afford.

Thankfully, Jane and her family have found another rental. Yet I fear for her, for the tenuous nature of her housing, for the fact that she is at a time and place in her life when security becomes more important. And given the current housing market, I do not see the situation improving.

I believe my friend and her family deserve better. They have built this county, and they continue to make this county a better place to live.

I do not have the answers. But I am convinced that working together, we can address this problem. I beg your readers to join me in this effort.

Kathleen Reddick Yager,

Hollister

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