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July 23, 2021 / Rabbi Laura

The long slow work of housing justice

In recent months I’ve been part of a small yet dedicated group of housing justice advocates (warriors, really!) who are tirelessly working to create greater housing stability, ensure legal rights, and prevent evictions for Fresno and Central Valley residents.

Coordinated by Faith in the Valley and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, our diverse group has been in conversation with local government leaders about the need for concrete, long term, homelessness prevention programs that will provide income-eligible tenants, who are sued for eviction in housing court, regardless of tenancy or type of eviction, a right to an attorney to defend their case, and will provide city-wide education for both tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities.

We have spent hot weekend mornings out canvassing neighborhoods to hear stories and giving witness to the struggles our fellow Fresnans have been experiencing, all so that we can advocate for them in the offices and chambers of City Hall. Members of the team have done extensive research on the eviction rates in the Central Valley. That research process revealed that in Fresno alone, “the annual number of evictions in Fresno is always above 2,000 and likely reaches as high as 4,000+ every year due to the number of informal evictions that are not documented in court filings” and that only “1% of tenants had legal representation compared to 73% of landlords (Evicted in Fresno, January 2020).” We currently estimate that over 28,000 rental households in Fresno are vulnerable to eviction.

While conversations about funding and implementing a Eviction Protection Program in Fresno are still ongoing (it was funded for this year’s budget, but not to the extent needed), the State of California has provided a glimmer of hope for those living on the edge of homelessness, with the passage of AB832 that provides eligible tenants and landlords rent and utilities relief in the amount of 100% of arrears accrued due to the COVID-19 pandemic from April 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021.

#housingjustice has been on my mind.

I am so grateful for the roof over my head, that we were able to purchase our home, and we are able to pay our mortgage each month.

In our home we do not live in fear of eviction, of landlords who retaliate against tenants who request-and-then-demand repairs to code violations. We do not have to struggle through advocating for ourselves in eviction court, without any legal representation – because none was offered to me, or because I don’t know how I would pay for it, or because I don’t even know that it is my right to have said representation. But, that is not the case for so many of my neighbors.

So, when Jim Grant, retired Director of Social Justice Ministry for the Diocese of Fresno, invited me to join him for a conversation on his podcast and YouTube show, Looking at Social Justice, it was clear that this is what we needed to discuss.

If you are a Central Valley resident that has been unable to pay your rent or utilities due to loss of income from the COVID-19 pandemic, you can look into applying for AB832 funds by going to #HousingisKey.

You can also learn more about AB832 and the local organizing work Faith in the Valley is doing by joining an informational workshop on Wednesday, July 28 at 6:00-7:00 PM pacific. Workshop registration:

One Comment

  1. / Jul 23 2021 10:18 am

    Thanks for sharing. Do you think the needy people have computers to find out what they should do.

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