Single mom of 3 who helped families apply for rent relief could be homeless when CA program expires

Nora applied for CA's pandemic eviction protection program set to expire March 31. Six months later, she's still waiting for help.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The homeless crisis could get worse after next week. The state's rent relief program "Housing is Key," expires next Thursday. Many applicants are still waiting for financial aid.

Nora Gray has been dreading the end of this month. Next week, all the protections that are keeping her from getting evicted expire. Her seven-year-old knows they can end up homeless.

"He has never seen me so down and now he seeing me in a way that I don't want my kids to see me with so much stress on me," said Gray, and added, "I feel like I'm in a hole and I can't come out. I'm stuck."

Before the pandemic, she was a full time Janitor and was never behind in rent.

"$8,500 - that's how much I owe in rent right now. That is six months of rent, exactly. All my savings are gone. Since last year I've been spending everything on rent and now I'm broke. I don't have anything in my bank account," said Gray.

Last year she became a single mom. Her husband left them while she was pregnant. She now works part time cleaning houses, but it's not enough.

"Everything that I win goes towards childcare. So, I have to pay a babysitter and then what I win I have to pay bills. Nothing for me. Nothing for my kids. Everything goes towards bills," said Gray.

Nora applied for the California pandemic eviction protection program set to expire March 31. It's been six months and she is still waiting for help.

There is a GoFundMe to help Nora and her kids here.

"The only thing that I heard from them is that I'm under review, under review and it's nerve-racking," said Gray.

At first glance you may think Nora is only worried about the roof she needs to keep over seven-year-old Jonny, five-year-old Marylyn and eight month-old Sara. But in reality the pressure she feels goes beyond her kids. She helped 11 families in her building sign up for the state's program.

"I feel that if they don't get help with rent I'm going to feel like I brought all of us down. That I brought all my neighbors down with me," said Gray.

According to data collected by Policy Link and the statewide housing justice coalition, Housing Now!, there are hundreds of thousands of California's waiting on the state.

"In California we know that there are over 350,000 renter families that have applied for rental assistance and have not gotten it yet," said Francisco Dueñas, Executive director of Housing NOW!.

California's Housing and Community Development department said they distribute funds based on an area median income and said in part, "The program will continue to operate until all complete applications received are processed and all eligible applicants have been paid."

What worries housing advocates is that it may be too late after next Thursday.

"Their landlords will get the paid and the only question is will those families still be living in their homes or not," said Dueñas.

RELATED: CA too slow in offering surplus properties to alleviate affordable housing crisis: Audit

The local non-profit, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) is concerned many people will be evicted in April.

"What is going to happen is that people are probably going to get a 3 day notice to pay or quit. Or the landlords could go and file an unlawful detainer in court. After that the tenants have five days to respond. We really don't know what is going to happen in court. There is really nothing out there to protect these tenants," said Betty Gabaldon, Tenant Organizer with EBASE.

Meanwhile, Nora Gray says her kids are her driving force, even if next month they ends up homeless.

"I have to do it because of them. Everyday single day I do it because of them. Every day I wake up and I thank God for the day and I keep on moving," said Gray.

Cities can extend their protections. Concord Assemblyman Tim Grayson just introduced a bill that would extend the eviction moratorium to June for anyone who applies for the states help by March 31, but for now many of these families are waiting on a miracle.

Full statement from the CA Housing Community Development:

We know rent relief is an urgent issue for all applicants. There are a number of factors that have influenced the payment timelines for a given application. Consistent with federal and state law, the state must review and distribute funds to eligible applicants based on established prioritization criteria, which includes a priority for households based on area median income, risk of eviction, while also prioritizing assistance to applicants based on the date in which their complete application was submitted. A significant factor in determining how quickly the program can process applications is based on the level of responsiveness of the applicant, ensuring all applicable documentation has been submitted in order to quickly verify program eligibility.

The CA COVID-19 Rent Relief application portal closes after March 31. At that point, no new applications will be accepted, but the program will continue to process and pay all eligible applicants that submit a completed application on or before March 31, 2022. The program will continue to operate until all complete applications received are processed and all eligible applicants have been paid. With the recent passage of SB 115 in February, the state stepped in to provide a financial bridge to free up the program from the current pace of US Treasury Reallocations. As such, CA COVID-19 Rent Relief has been able to accerate payments and ensure that all eligible applications seeking assistance incurred on or before March 31st will be paid.

As of March 22, nearly 215,000 households have received assistance with over $2.47 billion being paid, averaging over $11,000 per household. At the current time, we continue to pay out over $90 million to 9,000+ households per week and we are accelerating that pace, with the program reaching its highest pace in the last week.

It is important to note in your reporting that: 1 in 3 payments nationally has been made in California to tenants and landlords in need. No program has disbursed more funds that CA COVID-19 Rent Relief. The program has been successful in reaching those most impacted by the pandemic. This combination has made CA COVID-19 Rent Relief the most successful program in the nation, recently evidenced by the US Treasury allocating nearly 1 out of every 3 dollars that have been reallocated to each state and local jurisdiction across the country, a testament to their confidence in our ability distribute funds to households in need and in a timely fashion.

It is also important to remember, this is an emergency program designed to address the specific need that resulted from the pandemic.

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