Emergency rental & deposit assistance helps move San Mateo couple into a new home

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Every month, our client service department helps provide emergency rental assistance to help 23 low-income individuals and families experiencing financial hardship maintain a stable living situation. Last month, our client service and finance department staff went above and beyond to ensure that a client was able to pay the deposit and 1st month’s rent for a new, more affordable apartment just 2 days before her move-in date.

“My partner and I are both people living with disabilities, specifically wheelchair users, and we are on a fixed income. We both work very hard to make ends meet every month…” reports Ligia. When the opportunity arose to move into a Below Market Rate (BMR) apartment nearby, she turned to Samaritan House for help. “[Our case manager] Christiana Weidanz worked hard to make sure that our new property had a check that same Friday. Everything worked out wonderfully! We moved in, they received their deposit and first month rent, and now we can finally breathe.”

BMR Availability

Many Americans struggle to afford a decent, safe place to live in today’s market – especially in Silicon Valley. According to the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy think tank that researches the topic of housing affordability and homelessness, “For every 100 extremely low-income renter households, there are only 19 affordable and available rental units in San Mateo County.” In addition, over the past 5 years, average rental prices in the area have skyrocketed while the number of renters who need moderately priced housing has increased.

These pressures make finding affordable housing even tougher for low-income households in San Mateo County, and make the need for Samaritan House’s safety-net services and emergency assistance programs a precious resource for families in our community.

In a thank you note to our client service department, our client Ligia expressed her appreciation for having this rental assistance service to help out during her time of need: “This all could not have been possible without Christiana being so proactive, understanding, and compassionate. We are so grateful for her assistance, and the assistance we received from Samaritan House.”

Breaking the Cycle: Martin’s Story (Part 1)

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We are excited to present this guest blog post by Samaritan House Grants Manager Amy Hsieh. Amy visited with a resident of Safe Harbor to talk about his experiences with homelessness and his road towards stability.

Martin is chronically homeless, having lived in and out of Safe Harbor shelter since the late 90’s when it was still located in the National Guard Armory in San Mateo.

Born in Los Angeles, Martin spent his childhood in San Francisco in a family that provided little supervision. Martin says, “I lived a different life. I was drug-oriented. I partied all the time when I was a teenager. It became a lifestyle. Then it becomes your life.”

He found jobs, worked for many years in South City in the freight and shipping business, but was always sidetracked by drugs. For a while, he worked for at an international freight company, where he used his travel benefits to fly to exotic locations. Inevitably, he would spend all of his money, and then be back for another stay at Safe Harbor.

“I was using and not functional. Breaking that cycle was hard,” he says.

On his first stay at Safe Harbor, he remembers feeling uncomfortable, not knowing anyone. “It was like being out on the street, but in an enclosed space, like being squeezed into a box,” Martin explains. Once he started getting to know people at the shelter, he started to feel more comfortable.

“Many people don’t realize that the shelter is a community of people who are all in the same boat. You’re not forced to be here. It’s a choice. If you want, you can make it work for you,” says Martin.

It has taken time, but over his last three stays at Safe Harbor, Martin made a conscious choice to live a different lifestyle. He is now drug free, but the road has not been easy…

(Story continued next week. Check back to read more about Martin’s journey.)