The Morris brothers, Harvey, aged 71, and Daniel, 69, say their landlord raised the rent and kicked them out when they complained about the roaches, rats, and black mold in their apartments. The landlord—an absentee owner—would most likely say the brothers trashed their units and ignored warnings to take better care of them. It’s a routine argument whenever affordable housing issues are raised in California.
The bottom line: No matter the reasons, more and more people all the time are losing their homes in California’s soaring housing market.
Harvey and Daniel had apartments in a multi-unit house on Modesto’s west side until a couple of months ago. Daniel had been there 27 years and Harvey 22. In all that time, says Daniel, “I only had two late payments.”
Both the brothers have been on disability for years and are on fixed incomes. Before her death last year, Daniel’s disability payments were supplemented by his wife’s. But he lost her income when she died.
“The rent went from $625 a month to $825,” said Daniel last Tuesday outside his tent in Modesto’s Beard Brook Park. “The rent just got too high. If I paid the rent, I couldn’t pay the bills.”
Like his brother, Daniel has a total income of around $1200 a month. He also has a 2001 Nissan Maxima. Right now it’s barely running because it needs some new parts. He’s able to nurse it along when the brothers need to make a grocery run, but expects it will die soon unless he can get if fixed.
Both brothers have heart problems. Daniel recently had a two-way bypass and Harvey has had four heart attacks.
“I died four times and that fibrillator thing (sic) got me going again,” said Harvey. “The doctor told me my heart is completely shot and there’s nothing he can do about it except write out a death certificate. But I ain’t dead.”
For a while, the brothers had permission to stay behind a church where they had enough room to store their furniture. But they say their furniture was destroyed by vandals and all they have left is a few personal belongings. They had to leave the churchyard due to constant complaints from neighbors.
Even if they pool their incomes, the brothers are facing a struggle to find housing. And they’re not the only ones.
According to the United Way, 37% of Stanislaus County households are below the “Real Cost Measure,” a standard that takes into account total living costs calculated against income. The Real Cost Measure offers a more accurate assessment than typical poverty assessments, which generally focus only on income.
But the most disturbing implication of the real cost measure is the realization that people who are living at or below the line are one significant cost event—a major car repair or health care cost—away from being unable to make their rent or mortgage payment. And it’s no surprise that in California, housing costs take up by far the highest percentage of most people’s income.
Local experts say Stanislaus County alone has an urgent need for almost 20,000 affordable housing units. And given the harsh realities of rising costs and fixed incomes, no one should expect fewer homeless people on the streets anytime soon. The most likely prospect is Harvey and Daniel Morris will soon be seeing even more tents in Beard Brook Park. A lot more.
Jeanne Gore says
Where has our humanity gone? Why are slum lords allowed to get away with what they do to tenants all over this country? I understand that there are tenants who don’t take care of their apartments and that isn’t right either, but to have roaches, rats, etc… is just unacceptable. And, why aren’t there more affordable options for people with disabilities on fixed incomes? It’s time for this country to stop turning a blind eye to its most vulnerable citizens.
“A lot more.” is my forecast also. We need to have a capacity plan with an overflow option. Crowding will create a situation that will be hard to manage with a potential of conflicts that could lead to violence and/or people leaving and going back to the streets, parks, rivers, etc.
Hopefully our leaders will take the needed action to mitigate a potential crisis.
Thom Torvend says
Has anyone thought about laying out a camping grid or other method to determine spacing, square
footage, etc. which would be appropriate for each tent area? In this way the maximum capacity
could be determined. Spaces could be assigned and walkways established. If Beard Brook Park is to become a permanent homeless camp, it should be developed like any good camp ground, Spaces could be assigned so that there is a list of who is in each camp site. Without some sense of order
there will be less safety for the campers, and possible arguments over camping sites. There should be
some way of monitoring who is there, why, how long, etc. in order to continually evaluate how effective this idea is, and how it might be improved over time.
Thom, exactly, great post. However as long as it’s being viewed as temporary, minimal investments will be made. So first order of business is to declare this sites status: it will be there until we find another spot within the next 1-2 months, or this site will be our intermediate shelter solution until housing is available. We do however have an issue in that we have to be prepared to address flooding, Folks would have to move somewhere else temporarily.
Susan Narducci says
I agree 100%. Designated spaces will help make the area more organized and also easy to find people for services.
And yet, while tragic stories like this are common in the Valley, last year industry trade groups spent $716 million lobbying Washington for favors. The return on these favors, in the last five years, is over four billion. And oh — and the Real Estate lobby was the second largest investor. Rising home prices and rents are not as simple as supply and demand.
Daniel and Harvey are a sad reminder of a slow, but meaningful shift in what we call civilization.
Frieda rector says
Hello, This growing problem is tragic. What have we become?? Is anyone registering the homeless to vote so that they can help vote the heartless out of office??? Frieda
Gary Nicholas says
dear GOD, JESUS, HOLY SPIRIT, Please Bless All. Thanksgivings. Yes. Thanks. Amen.