No Child is Left Behind When it Comes to Housing Insecurity
January 18, 2019
From the editors and adviser: The Advanced Journalism staff while researching this story, decided to use our own newsroom to tell the story of a problem that is way too common on our campus and in our city. Their hope is that by speaking out in this article, students will come forward to staff on campus when they need help. You are not alone. We thank our journalists for telling their unique perspectives.
Noun. The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.
Many Godinez Fundamental High School students are insecure when it comes to their home. According to RENTCafe.com, the average monthly rent in Orange County has ballooned to $1, 979. This causes some Godinez families to cut essentials out such as food or utilities in order to make that monthly rent payment.
Senior Stacy Valentin is one of 10 family members who lives in a house that was originally three bedrooms but is now five. Two more rooms were added in order to accommodate everyone living in the house including having to rent out the master bedroom.
Valentin lives in a pretty nice neighborhood but due to apartment overcrowding, there are never enough parking spots.
“It’s always a full house, and it’s hard to find parking,” said Valentin, and “sometimes you hear police but there are police everywhere.” More people means close quarters and that can lead to tense situations that Valentin and her family hear.
The habits in Valentin’s life do not really change because of her housing. “The whole family is understanding,” she continued. “But there is a schedule that everyone must follow to make the household work.”
California is known as the sixth most expensive state to live in the United States. The average cost to buy a house in Orange County is $725,300. Making the goal to buy a home unattainable to low-income families.
And with increased housing prices, renting becomes the only option. But for many low-income families, people are renting whatever is affordable including a whole family renting a room in a house or apartment or even the garage.
With so many people, the struggle of having a quiet place to study and privacy can be nonexistent. Whether there are small children running around or family members trying to watch TV, this makes it difficult for students to study for classes.
Junior, Jennifer Pompa, has always faced housing problems. Pompa used to live with 15 people in a three bedroom, two bathroom house. It consisted of her family and two other families. She struggled to finish her homework and find peace and quiet.
But things have improved, she presently lives in a three bedroom home with just seven people. She said that it’s a major difference with a more peaceful environment. The best time for Pompa to study is at 9 p.m., since she helps her sister with her homework and the house is usually incredibly loud until the younger children and adults go to sleep.
GFHS administration is aware of troubles students face at home and try to assist them as much as possible. Students can talk to staff about their housing problems or needs such as food, clothing or school supplies. Staff members have helped many students by giving them phones with internet access or free bus passes.
Annette Jackson, curriculum coordinator, knows the tough housing status of many students on campus.
“We have a student living in an apartment with two different families or we have students who are homeless living in a car or in a shelter,” said Jackson.
She can help aid students with necessities. Jackson reaches out to students, and asks teachers and administrators to send her students who have difficulties with the basic necessities for school.
Godinez administration is aware of the rate of students who don’t have a stable home or live in crowded conditions. They are open to help students figure out what is needed at home.
Some students do open up to their teachers when they need help. Students are guided to staff members such as: Assistant Principal Dr. Michael Lee, Higher Education Coordinator Jimmy Bravo, and Jackson to get help.
Teacher, Mirna Perez is familiar with student’s trouble of finishing their task when living in a crowded home all too well. She has told her students about her home life when she was a teenager.
Perez said, “I always tell them. I used to live that lifestyle. My parents were in one bedroom with five of us. I tell them the only way out of this is through education. Now I am very blessed to have a home.”
Knowing the stories of many students triggers our school’s annual canned food drive or Make a Wish gift donations program during the holiday season. This is just one way that can help students get some assistance November and December. But students need to know that there is help year round.
Veronica Chavez, school counselor, spoke about the privacy of students saying, “I think there’s always someone you feel comfortable talking to. It doesn’t have to be an assistant principal. It can be a nurse, a teacher, a coach, or any other adult on campus.”
Helping one another is a huge part of Godinez’s mission to make every student successful. With many programs in place to help including leaving the library open till 6 p.m. most afternoons, students can find a quiet study environment.
Being ashamed of what you’re going through should not dictate how you live. There are many people on campus who can help. You are not alone.
Here are just a few of the stories from our own staff about the struggle to stay living and surviving in Orange County.
Photo courtesy of Martha Garcia
Crowded Space, Noisy Space
Senior Marycruz Rivera is the youngest child. She wakes up early just to take a shower and usually gets dropped off at school first.
She currently lives with five people in her apartment which has two bedrooms and two restrooms. Living with five other people and having to share a room can bring some rules. And when it comes to doing homework she finds it noisy and isn’t able to concentrate.
Her housing situation and her necessities have caused her to start working at KFC. Just like everyone else, she doesn’t like working but she has to in order to support her mom since her father isn’t present in her life.
“Growing up without my father is hard but I have learned to accept it and don’t mind it as much anymore,” Rivera said.
She moved during middle school to her current apartment. Her neighborhood is relatively safe. The only downside she mentions is how sometimes there are people racing or revving their engine around the neighborhood just to disturb the residents.
Her life has been hard but she continues to work at school and in her job in order to accomplish her goals and make her mom and siblings proud.
All in the Family
Stuck between eight other people. Junior, Ashley Ortega is the youngest of her two siblings. Ortega says she “lives comfortably” in her 5 bedroom home which she has lived in her entire life. Ortega lives with her mother, father, sister, brother, niece, grandma, sister-in-law, and her aunt.
She shares a room with her 13-year-old niece. Ortega has concerns over sharing her bedroom with her niece which include lack of space and different sleep patterns.
Ortega tends to stay up till 1 a.m. most nights to get her AP (Advanced Placement) homework completed for the next day. Ortega’s niece doesn’t complain but her aunt and uncle do ask her to turn out the light at times. She resorts to using her flashlight on her phone so she won’t get in trouble.
She said, “we both have a lot of things, so sometimes we argue over where to put things and whose side is whose.” Even so, Ortega lives pleasantly as she is used to sharing her bedroom.
Having a five bedroom home for nine people there is a shortage of space. With a full house, the Ortega family decided to convert the garage into a bedroom for her brother and sister-in-law to sleep in.
Ortega’s mother pays $1,150 a month for rent as the house is owned by her grandmother.
Living in Santa Ana there is always a chance of something an unforeseen happening. One morning Ortega met face to face with a homeless man in her front yard. Nothing happened and no one was hurt, but even so, there is always an underlying danger in the streets of Santa Ana.
Despite the lack of space, Ortega is happy to live in the home she shares with the people closest to her, her family.
Renting Out Bedrooms Helps
Housing Insecurity has become a common issue among students with a Hispanic background. For Steve Pineda, sharing a room with his mom and sister hasn’t been easy.
With very little privacy and almost no alone time, Pineda has shared his bedroom as long as he can remember. And although he lives in a three-bedroom house, the other two bedrooms are occupied by renters in order to make rent each month.
He says it’s been difficult, but he believes this situation has not affected him.
Pineda reflects, “Many people are more severely affected (by higher rents) but I am really not bothered by it.”
Overall, Pineda is aware that other students are more severely impacted by this housing insecurity situation but he does feel it really affects him even if it means less space for his entire family.
Pineda and mom know that having renters is just a way of life to get the rent paid every month.