Helping struggling Latin American families find housing is the mission of this Fresno group
FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) —Imelda Cruz has not had a home for over a year. After being evicted at the end of 2019, the mother of four says she struggled to find affordable housing. She says she spent $ 500 on housing applications last year, but was turned down due to bad credit, income, or her autistic son’s service dog.
The pandemic has stifled job opportunities, and after rebounding from Fresno to Bakersfield and back to Fresno in the past year, she has taken refuge in her son’s two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with seven other occupants.
The pandemic has exacerbated the housing crisis in California. In the Central Valley, once known for its affordability, stories like Imelda’s are not unusual.
“She had to live with me and my family in this 800 square foot apartment in the midst of the pandemic,” said Pedro Navarro Cruz.
Navarro Cruz is one of Imelda’s eldest sons. He is also the local chapter organizer of the nonprofit Communities for a New California Education Fund. After stories like that of Imelda and other tenants became mainstream in 2020, the organization formed “Angeles de la Vivienda” or “Housing Angels,” a Spanish-speaking neighborhood committee that focuses on affordable housing, reducing homelessness and increasing home ownership among Latin American families.
“I have seen several times where these people are not considered equal and our group is trying to change that,” he said.
Angeles de la Vivienda seeks to empower tenants by connecting them to resources, promoting civic engagement and encouraging people to share their experiences.
“It’s about connecting with other people who have a story,” said Cruz Navarro. “Because something we believe here at CNC is that the most powerful tool we have for change is our own personal story. “
“It’s because of the language barrier,” Imelda explained in Spanish, adding that other tenants may be taciturn about their experiences – or be reluctant to inquire about resources due to their status as a immigration.
But Angeles de la Vivienda wants to give them a seat at the table when decisions are made. Fighting against the language barrier is one of their priorities.
“Different entities are not ready to provide a Spanish translation,” said Cruz Navarro.
The city of Fresno has made some progress over the past year: Rental and utility assistance programs have provided relief to low-income families during covid. Last week, Fresno City Council also approved a trust fund to build more affordable housing over the next several years.
“I think it’s super important to involve people from the Spanish speaking community,” said Cruz Navarro. “I like where it’s going, I’m really excited for this band.”
Angeles de la Vivienda meets every two weeks. For more information, contact CNC Education Fund by visiting their website or contacting them on Facebook.