San Lorenzo family gets needed help with housing

Gina and Anthony Wire are just normal, hard-working folks, a dual-income couple with a daughter in high school.

In the increasingly high-priced Bay Area, however, such families are now living on the edge financially. It’s a story that is becoming all too familiar: forced out of their longtime rental after it was sold — yes, the new owner then raised the rent substantially — the Wires couldn’t find another rental unit.

“There were so many people in the same situation, we would go to open houses 30 minutes early, and there would be 50 people out front already,” Gina Wire said.

Instead of moving to the periphery of the Bay Area, though, the Wires — both Bay Area natives — chose to stay. Their daughter, Veronica, is a junior at San Lorenzo High School, where she was in a special program because she has had some learning disabilities. Her parents didn’t want to uproot her, so they stayed in a hotel.

For nine months.

“We just had suitcases with clothes; everything else was in storage — and it wasn’t the best hotel, it was rundown and had bugs,” Gina Wire said. “It was difficult, really, really hard.”

Before the hotel, the Wires had rented a home in a working-class section of San Leandro for seven years. After it was sold, the family had some financial difficulties when Gina Wire’s bank account was hacked. They fell behind on the rent, filed for bankruptcy and were evicted; the new owner then raised the rent on the unit by $500 a month.

Tough housing market

With their credit score taking a hit, the already competitive housing market turned nearly impossible. Then Gina Wire lost her position as a full-time staff accountant when her job was outsourced, and she had to turn to contract work, making their finances even tighter. But with two jobs — Anthony Wire is a security guard for the San Francisco Unified School District — they couldn’t apply for low-income housing.

“We had no one to lean on, and we didn’t qualify for any help,” Gina Wire said. ‘You’re just trying to keep your head up, stay above water.”

Damon Jones, a social worker with Alameda County who helped the Wires apply for help from Season of Sharing, said that 40 percent of families he sees are in similar straits — two-income couples in which one has lost a job even just briefly, causing a hardship such as housing loss, but low-income programs don’t cover them.

“That’s how things have been here the past two years. But the Wires really stood out because of the consistent hotel stays in order to keep their daughter in school,” Jones said. “I’m so glad that programs like Season of Sharing exist for loopholes like the one that they ran into. I couldn’t wait to advocate for them. They’re a wonderful family, very peaceful, good vibrations.”

Willing landlord

Finally, through a reference from one of Gina Wire’s co-workers, they found the ideal spot, in San Lorenzo and right near Veronica’s school. And the landlord was willing to take them despite their poor credit. “I said, ‘Please don’t judge us by a piece of paper — we’re good people,’” Gina Wire said.

Nine months of hotel living — and no kitchen lead to eating out, another unexpected expense — meant the Wires couldn’t come up with the security deposit.

That’s where Season of Sharing stepped in, with a payment to help the Wire family move into their new home.

Veronica Wire maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout their hotel stay; the 17-year-old is now taking harder courses to be able to attend a four-year college. She wants to be a professional baker, and she finally has a kitchen where she can practice.

“We love the place,” Gina Wire said. “It’s right across from the school, there’s a private courtyard, it’s very family oriented. Everyone looks out for each other.

“Last year, we had nothing,” she said. “And this year, we’re just grateful for everything here. Help with the security deposit made such a difference. We were able to bounce back. If we hadn’t had the help, we wouldn’t be here — and I hope we can now help give back, help someone else when they need it.”

 

Susan Slusser is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. You can e-mail her at sslusser@sfchronicle.com.

The original article can be found here.