Aurelio: The Realities of Section 8 Housing

Written by Susan, an advocate with PACT: People Acting in Community Together’Housing Team
Aurelio, aged 58, has been a quadriplegic since the early 1980s when he dove into a mountain pool of water in Yosemite which turned out to be shallower than he expected. Eventually, he was returned to San Jose where he ended up living in an old duplex on the eastside of town, his rent paid for by Section 8 and part of his Social Security payment. Several hours a day and during emergencies, Aurelio has been cared for by Maria, his in-home health care provider.
His landlady, Mercedes, after marrying a new husband, decided to move into the duplex unit next door to Aurelio’s. Then she decided that she did not like having Aurelio next door and served him an eviction notice in December 2017. Maria took Aurelio to the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, a non-profit law firm serving those who cannot afford lawyers, because she had heard that San Jose had a new Just Cause Eviction ordinance which prevented landlords from evicting tenants unless one of twelve conditions were met. Unfortunately, duplexes are not covered under the ordinance, so the eviction was upheld, but the Law Foundation did negotiate a delay in the eviction till June 1. Meanwhile, Aurelio had to get a restraining order against the landlady’s husband who kept entering Aurelio’s apartment to yell at him telling him to move.
Maria tried desperately on her own time to find a landlord who had a ground floor unit and who would accept Section 8 payments. Miraculously only two weeks before June 1, she found such a unit and landlord. A church was able to raise $2,000 and Sacred Heart Community Services paid the last $500 for the rental deposit. All contracts were signed and payment made by May 30. Aurelio’s apartment was ready for him, but due to the stress of insecurity, Aurelio developed a serious infection and had to stay to the County Hospital for a month and then go to a convalescent hospital. He hopes to move into his apartment in a couple of weeks.
Aurelio knows that he is fortunate in that several people and a church stepped up to help him so that he would not end up on the streets on a gurney. But in this wealthy community and in this wealthy state, someone as vulnerable as Aurelio should not have to depend on luck to save his life.

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