Over the last two years, the Tenants Together hotline rang relentlessly with stories from people desperately fighting evictions. Mothers who lost their jobs as the economy faltered; senior citizens terrified at the possibility of homelessness. Stories of property owners harassing tenants as a way to work around eviction protections abound.
Since the pandemic began in early 2020, approximately two million California households have faced eviction. And while there have been three different iterations of the statewide eviction moratorium, all have had major loopholes. As a result, thousands of our neighbors have lost their homes in the past two years. Through it all, San Francisco-based Tenants Together has trained tenant organizers, counselors to help people access available support, and specialized attorneys to help keep Californians in their homes during the pandemic and beyond.
“We have constantly been releasing new information on tenant eviction protections to service providers and directly to tenants,” says Lupe Arreola, Executive Director of Tenants Together.
As more and more people lost their jobs, and the need for eviction information intensified, Tenants Together turned to the San Francisco Foundation’s Rapid Response Fund, which helps organizations respond quickly to unanticipated challenges related to racial and economic equity.
“Having unrestricted, immediately accessible funds from trusted funder partners enabled us to quickly train our over 50 service provider partners and member organizations on rapidly changing local and statewide eviction protections this year,” Ms. Arreola shared of the urgency and reach of the Tenants Together network. The service providers that Tenants Together trains collectively reach the entire state, some of the Bay Area’s largest direct service anti-displacement groups. Without support from Tenants Together, these organizations would have had to review and interpret the rapidly changing state and local regulations on their own. The Rapid Response Fund helped Tenants Together:
- Create and translate Tenant Defense Toolkit, which their member organizations used to share the rapidly changing tenant protection information in trainings, online, and going door-to-door to share information with neighbors at risk of eviction.
- Bring in experienced, culturally competent interpreters to help make their member trainings and public events more efficient, effective, and empowering because they allow for more nuanced discussions, and create a space in which people could really connect. The interpretation support freed up staff members who are often tasked with both presenting and interpreting.
Additionally, Tenants Together was also able to quickly build and strengthen their tenant organizing network of over 30 Bay Area groups. They provided training and shared the best practices from around the state to strengthen the power-building efforts of these groups.
SFF is proud to partner with community organizations like Tenants Together and their work to support families in some of their most desperate moments when their housing is threatened.