Breanna Dye has searched constantly for a new home for more than a month since Modesto condemned the downtown apartment building where she, her boyfriend, and their two young children live.
Dye, 24, has explained her family’s circumstances and tight finances (she brings home $650 to $700 every two weeks from her fast-food job while her boyfriend watches the kids) but has not had success in finding a place. The building’s owner gave the family a 30-day notice to vacate the apartment, and the time is up Monday. The family does not want to stay longer for fear the owner will take them to court to evict them, putting a mark on their credit.
But as of Saturday, Dye did not know where she and the rest of her family would go. “I have no idea,” she said as she began to cry. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what we are supposed to do. Where are we supposed to go? We are looking everywhere.”
Modesto, Stanislaus County and social service agencies are working with the tenants at 624 Ninth St. to find them homes. But the results have been meager because of the tight rental market and lack of affordable housing.
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And now they are asking landlords if they would be willing to step forward to house tenants. “Your participation will help many of our community members overcome the challenges of homelessness and empower them to live an independent life,” Jeanette Fabela, the county’s housing and supportive services manager, said in an email.
Fabela acknowledged some tenants have challenges but could be eligible for services, including financial assistance with the rent and security deposit. And the Modesto City Council recently approved providing approximately $1,200 in relocation benefits for each apartment. City employees are expected to be at the apartment building this week telling tenants about the benefit and how to apply.
The two-story building has 27 studio apartments. (The couple who manage the complex live in one of them.) Rent is $575 or $585 a month. One of the managers has said about 80 poor people lived in the building, though one social service agency tallied 62 residents, but tenants in about three apartments did not answer the door so they and anyone else in those apartments were not counted.
Fabela provided an update Wednesday on the efforts to find homes for the tenants.
She said agencies have placed 24 people who had been living in six of the apartments in permanent housing. Seventeen people who had been in five apartments have been placed in motels or respite housing for 30 days, where they will receive case management to help them find permanent housing. But Fabela acknowledged chances are not good that will happen.
Two people are at shelters at the Gospel Mission and Salvation Army, and one person found housing on their own. That left 18 people in 12 apartments as of Wednesday still in the building. “It’s going to be a real challenge to get them housed,” Fabela said. “That’s the truth, but that’s painful. We don’t have enough affordable housing.”
But Fabela noted a bright spot. Because the city, county and agencies are working together as part of the Stanislaus Community of System of Care they brought services directly to the tenants. She said it could have been bewildering for tenants to try to find help by themselves and said fewer would have found help and housing.
The apartment building has problems. Bathroom floors are collapsing because of water damage from faulty plumbing in some apartments. Others reek of mold. Tenants say rats enter through holes in the walls and floors. Police officers are frequent visitors, responding to arguments, fights, assaults and requests for security checks.
The building is owned by Steve and Noma Arakelian. Steve Arakelian has blamed the problems on those tenants he has claimed vandalize and damage the property faster than he can repair it. He has said some tenants have been homeless and struggle with or have struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, and has said he let tenants stay despite owing him back rent. But several tenants say Arakelian does not make repairs or adequate repairs.
While he has said he was having tenants evicted, Arakelian actually had them given notices saying he was canceling their leases and they had 30 or 60 days to get out, depending on how long they had lived in the building. The notices say Arakelian can start legal proceedings to take possession of the apartments if tenants are not out by the 30 or 60 days.
Arakelian declined to comment about what he will do if tenants are not out when their time is up.
Dye lives with her boyfriend, Richard Pena, and their two children, 3-year-old Destiny and 4-year-old Isaiah. Dye and Pena said Family Promise — one of the agencies working with tenants — can provide them with financial assistance to move into a new home.
Dye and Pena are recovering drug addicts trying to build a better life for their children. Pena said they considered going into a shelter but said the logistics would be hard. For instance, Dye often works nights and sleeps during the day. Pena said one shelter would separate him from Dye and their kids.
Dye said searching for apartments has been frustrating. Everything rents for about $800 a month and she either does not hear from landlords or they tell her they rented the apartment to someone else. “I think a lot of it is my income,” she said. “They could be worried about not getting their money. But everyone deserves a chance.”
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316