coronavirus pandemic

Struggling Renter Has Tips to Help Others Like Her

Amid financial struggles, an Imperial Beach mother is hoping her story can help others grappling to pay rent and access food

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Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and San Diego County residents are still struggling to pay rent and access food.

Imperial Beach resident Patricia Mendoza is among these impacted families but she also wants to make sure others are getting the help they too need by knowing their rights.

"It's sad, it's sad and this is why I continue to fight," said Mendoza. "My unemployment is only $53 a week, and what am I going to do? Do I feed my kids? Do I put gas in the van?"

The single mother of two is forced to choose between food and rent. This has been her reality for the last 10 months.

"We go wherever there's free donations Sometimes the line is so long they tell us there's no more. So, it's still an issue. People are still struggling," said Mendoza.

Amid the turmoil, Patricia turned to ACCE, a local tenants' rights group. She began informing herself of her rights as a renter and then began sharing vital information.

"Thanks to raising my voice and letting people know this is not right," Mendoza said.

California is still under an eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021, and while there have been instances where Mendoza said she was almost kicked out of her unit, she's learned what protections are out there and what help is available.

Mendoza has been able to back pay several months of rent, she's also leaned on several state and county rental assistance programs.

"I've learned so much to where I was at, to where I am now and I feel very grateful and blessed that we spent Christmas here," said Mendoza motioning to her apartment unit.

Last May NBC 7 spoke with Mendoza at a "cancel rent" protest. She had just lost her job and was struggling to get her kids online for school.

"I was sobbing especially because my son had said 'I have money, mommy,' and he doesn't know who much rent is," she said through tears.

Her nine-year-old son is also battling anxiety.

"For him to know that mom is struggling to pay the rent -- I don't want him to. That's not his job. He should not worry about that," she said.

While Mendoza humbly shares her story, she wants others who are flooded with bills and worries to seek help.

The San Diego Housing Commission said all county residents cannot be evicted for not paying their rent due to COVID-19 reasons through at least the end of June 2021.

In the city of San Diego, Mayor Todd Gloria announced an additional $45 million in rental assistance available for residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, raising the city's reserve to nearly $88 million. Learn more here.

ACCE organizers created a fundraiser for Mendoza. With any extra funds, Mendoza plans on donating it to other families in need.

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