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Posted: 10/1/2005 5:04:02 PM EDT
sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/10/01/HOUSING.TMP

HURRICANE SEASON
Bay Area is no refuge
HOUSING: Katrina survivors find it's too pricey to stay out here
- Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Shelby Reimonenq made enough money in New Orleans to rent a 2,200-square-foot home near good schools, take vacations and even let his wife stay home with their six children.

But after three weeks of living in motels and with relatives in the Bay Area, Reimonenq faced a problem shared by other working-class survivors of Hurricane Katrina in one of the nation's most expensive housing markets: He can't afford a place to live here.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said last week that it would give families $2,358 apiece over three months in renewable housing subsidies. The trouble for evacuees in the Bay Area is that the figure is based on a national average for what it costs to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

In San Francisco, however, the average rent for a two-bedroom unit is $1,539 a month, according to federal housing figures.

Reimonenq worked at Home Depot in New Orleans, and the home repair chain has pledged to help find jobs for relocated employees at stores near their new homes. But even if that happens, he said, he can't afford the sticker shock of first and last months' rent and security deposit for Bay Area housing -- he didn't have much savings, nor renter's insurance to cover his losses in New Orleans.

Back home, he rented a three-bedroom house for $600 a month.

He found a three-bedroom apartment in West Oakland for $1,800, "but the schools weren't so good, and it wasn't really a good neighborhood," said Reimonenq, 31. "(The Bay Area) is a nice place and all, but I don't know if we can afford to stay here."

So Reimonenq's family is doing something that many Bay Area working-class folks do in the same situation: He is moving out of the region -- to Fresno, where a real estate agent found him a rent-free home for the rest of the school year.

Such good fortune is rare, and regional housing and community advocates say Reimonenq's predicament illustrates a dilemma for many of the 1,700 Gulf Coast families that moved to the region in the past month.

With little sign they'll be able to return home soon, many survivors are eager to place their children in schools, get jobs and restart their lives. And they can't do any of that until they secure long-term housing somewhere besides a motel or a cousin's spare bedroom.

"It's the working-class people who are having the problems," said Ollie Arnold, a housing outreach coordinator for Eden Information and Referral, a Hayward outfit that lists 50,000 units in Alameda County in its database.

"These were productive folks who were going to work every day, but now their means of survival are gone," Arnold said.

Having to ask for any kind of assistance is an adjustment. "A lot of these people aren't used to asking for help. They see it as welfare," said Joan Kelley Williams, who is coordinating partnerships with community groups for the Bay Area Red Cross. "They say, 'I used to donate to Goodwill.' "

The Red Cross estimates that half the families that have sought its help in the Bay Area are still living in motels with the relief agency's help. Roughly 45 percent of the local survivors are in Alameda County, 25 percent in San Francisco.

Two weeks ago, Eden Information and Referral asked landlords to consider lowering rents to $600 for six months for displaced Gulf Coast residents. But that still wasn't low enough for many survivors. On Tuesday, Eden asked landlords for free rent for six months.

Several landlords have responded -- but Arnold said most offers are for rooms in someone's home.

"At this point, many (survivors) want something that's a little more permanent, to be on their own," Arnold said.

Tyrone Armour looked at one place Thursday that the maintenance supervisor thought he could afford to live in with his three young daughters. It was a transitional housing complex in a converted Oakland motel.

"They said we could have two rooms there," said Armour, who rented a two-bedroom home with a yard for $500 in New Orleans. "But with all due respect, it was full of people who had drug and alcohol problems, and I don't want my young daughters around that all the time."

So for now, Armour is living with relatives in El Sobrante -- and his daughters are with another relative in Hayward.

After living in four San Francisco motels over the past 2 1/2 weeks, 60-year-old Clara Rita Barthelemy is giving herself another week in the Bay Area before she leaves. A relative's friend has chauffeured her around to various apartments, but they've either been too expensive or in bad neighborhoods.

The nurse's assistant was sharing a relative's home in New Orleans when Katrina hit, and before that she was paying $350 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.

"It's pretty here, but if I don't find something soon, I'm leaving San Francisco," Barthelemy said.

Making her search more difficult is that she can't stop thinking about the dead bodies she saw floating by as she awaited rescue in the attic of her flooded-out home in New Orleans.

"I been up crying at night," she said, her voice trailing off. "Crying and crying."

It's the same struggle many survivors are coping with here. They're mourning their loss while trying to plan their future in a landscape that's light years beyond their economic reach, Williams said.

"Many people are still in shock," Williams said. "And the lack of permanent housing is just adding to their instability."

The shortage of affordable rentals is in contrast to the bounty of clothing and monetary donations that have poured into charities for the displaced.

"A church from Emeryville stopped by the other day and dropped off 200 pairs of new shoes, still in the boxes," said Linda Kiehle, president of the Kiwanis Club of Grand Lake, which is helping survivor families by connecting a variety of religious and community organizations.

By next week, Kiehle hopes to have gathered enough donated items to outfit several apartment units in downtown Oakland, from skillet to shower curtain. Still, she worries whether families will be able to afford the units without outside help.

"You have people with all these clothes and blankets, and they're in these little motel rooms," Kiehle said. "But a lot of them don't have the money to get their own place."

And they're about out of patience. "I was living in a house my mother owned in New Orleans. We are taxpayers," said Gloria Pouncy, 50, her voice rising. She has been staying in a Mission District motel for the past several days, after spending several days in the Houston Astrodome.

"We have had it with San Francisco," Pouncy said. "San Francisco has nothing for us. If we don't find anything by Monday, we are out of here."

Got a place for someone to stay?

Landlords who want to supply property at reduced or free rent can contact Eden Information and Referral at (510) 727-9565 or go to www.edenir.org.

People interested in donating the use of their property to survivors of the Gulf Coast hurricanes should contact Mary Anne Gilderbloom at the Oakland Association of Realtors at (510) 836-3003.

E-mail Joe Garofoli at jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com
Link Posted: 10/1/2005 5:04:45 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/1/2005 5:09:14 PM EDT by raven]
Jerk statement meant to ridicule San Franciso liberals' double standards.
Link Posted: 10/1/2005 5:11:16 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/1/2005 5:11:56 PM EDT by Gregory_A]
Kinda harsh don't ya think ? Aren't ya glad I didn't quote you ?...lol
Link Posted: 10/1/2005 5:13:59 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/1/2005 5:15:14 PM EDT by raven]
I was kind of harsh, could have been easily misconstrued whom I was insulting.
Link Posted: 10/1/2005 5:16:55 PM EDT
San Francisco is not a place for the poor. In fact, few places in the SF Bay Area can accomodate the poor.
Link Posted: 10/1/2005 5:20:28 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/1/2005 5:20:42 PM EDT by MMcCall]
What the fuck are these people doing in SF anyway? It's a hurricane, not a paid vacation. Stay somewhere close.
Link Posted: 10/1/2005 5:26:59 PM EDT

Originally Posted By 4v50:
San Francisco is not a place for the poor. In fact, few places in the SF Bay Area can accomodate the poor.



+1.

Parts of the East Bay (like Hayward) are somewhat affordable, but San Francisco? Are they nuts? Marin, San Francisco and most of the Penisula are not affordable to the poor. San Jose is high as well. Contra Costa is not affordable either.

The SF Bay Area in general requires two good incomes to live well. $100k or more a year in income.
Link Posted: 10/1/2005 9:16:42 PM EDT
I don't think they chose to go there, I think the gov just flew people around the country.

Having to ask for any kind of assistance is an adjustment. "A lot of these people aren't used to asking for help. They see it as welfare," said Joan Kelley Williams, who is coordinating partnerships with community groups for the Bay Area Red Cross. "They say, 'I used to donate to Goodwill.' "

Well, to listen to the new media, you'd all New Orleans residents are welfare queens looking for handouts from the government.
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 7:45:34 AM EDT
Well, that's one way to keep the 'Nawlins looters out.
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 7:50:04 AM EDT
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 9:34:46 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/2/2005 9:35:38 AM EDT by Gregory_A]
I think East Oakland is worse than W.Oakland.Right near the coliseum is IMO one of the worst places on earth.

Hunters Point/3rd st. in San Fran comes a very close second though.

One of the reasons I moved from Cali was because I could no longer afford to live there.I mean I could,but I was working 2 jobs and really no life at all.I was paying $1200(1998-2000) for a studio apt in San Mateo.I am not complaining,because I have no-one to blame but myself for not going to college so I could make 6 figures a year and afford to live in the Gay Area.

The Bay Area is not "working class" friendly IMO.
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 9:53:32 AM EDT
BART goes right over West Oakland. That place sucks.

One minute you're enjoying a nice ride through Lafayette/Orinda, scanning the view of nice homes in Rockridge, and then you go underground and come back up in West Oakland. It's like, WTF? This place sucks.

Anyway, the East Bay has always supported blue collar workers, so I'm surprised they cannot afford an apartment in San Lorenzo or Hayward.
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 10:07:47 AM EDT
They knew of the high prices and I have no sympathy for them.

Do your homework before you move.

Google is your friend.

Max
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 2:36:11 PM EDT
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 2:47:06 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/2/2005 2:47:42 PM EDT by MTUSA]

Originally Posted By 4v50:
San Francisco is not a place for the poor. In fact, few places in the SF Bay Area can accomodate the poor.




The irony: SF the liberal mecca with it's tolerance and diversity allows only extreme wealth to
be able to live there.
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 3:03:03 PM EDT

Originally Posted By MTUSA:

Originally Posted By 4v50:
San Francisco is not a place for the poor. In fact, few places in the SF Bay Area can accomodate the poor.




The irony: SF the liberal mecca with it's tolerance and diversity allows only extreme wealth to
be able to live there.



+1...but when they get the big one out there, and they will, sooner or later, I'm sure they'll be demanding massive federal aid just like those in NO. They'll want the middle class in middle America to pay for them to live in an overpriced liberal enclave that will certainly crumble to the ground one of these days...
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 3:05:28 PM EDT
Bullshit I say.
I know of no metropolitan area in America where you can get a "2,200-square-foot home near good schools, take vacations and even let his wife stay home with their six children." for 600 bucks a month.
Link Posted: 10/2/2005 3:06:10 PM EDT
I don't see where most of these people are asking that something be done . . . the comment of the Red Cross worker that most of these people are commenting that they are unused to receiving donations rather than giving them reinforces this.

What I told my father the other day holds true . . . those who are going to help themselves have already done so. While some people are struggling with making the adjustment to an area they probably had paid little attention to before, they are not themselves asking for help. It appears that the journalist is slanting the article to seem as though they are desperate and begging . . . but they are not.

For those who commented about them moving so far . . . some have family and we are talking about the ability of the nation to absorb a large-sized city in rental housing . . . going farther away is going to make it easier to find something. They simply had the bad luck of having relatives in one of the worst places to find housing in the nation.
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