Joshua Perez had fallen off a ladder before, because falling off ladders happens when you’re a building contractor.
He had fallen off tall ladders and he had fallen off very tall ladders, all while he was on the job. Those were times when he was covered by insurance. Fortunately, those times he wasn’t hurt.
Some months ago, he fell off a ladder when he was trying to clear leaves out of his rain gutter, and broke his leg. This time he wasn’t covered by insurance. He was at his own home, and on his own time.
“I landed awkwardly,” he said. “I knew right away it was bad.”
For a while, Perez, 37, couldn’t work. His balance was off. When your job consists of standing on a 6-inch-wide beam of steel high above the ground, balance counts.
Doctors put his leg back together with a metal plate and some screws. It hurt then and it still does.
“It hurts every time I bend my ankle,” Perez said. “Especially when it rains.”
Because of his injury, Perez had to turn down jobs. He could take only jobs that could accommodate his injury.
Perez, who had poured the concrete on the Doyle Drive tunnels and helped put together the BART extension to Oakland International Airport, could no longer work high off the ground. He found himself accepting jobs at street level. And that meant a lot less work.
At such times, the money stops coming in, but it still needs to go out. The landlord, the electric company, the garbage collector continue to want their cut. A man who falls off a ladder can find himself falling into a hole.
Then his landlord announced that Perez would have to move from his home in Pittsburg. The landlord was selling the house. Perez, a single father with five kids, found another rental house, not too far away.
But to move, he needed first and last month’s rent, and a security deposit. He was between jobs, which is part of being a contractor, and he was a few grand short, which is part of being a single father with five kids. The house looked like it was slipping away. His luck looked to be slipping away, too.
“It was frightening. Having this many kids. Not having a roof over your head. It’s a terrifying concept.”
Then a social worker told Perez about the Season of Sharing Fund. After an application and an interview, the fund covered last month’s rent and the security deposit on the new house.
“My family is so grateful,” Perez said. “We would have been in a desperate situation. Season of Sharing came through and helped me out.”
Perez, who is a Navajo, celebrated his good fortune the other evening by lighting some medicinal incense in his new three-bedroom home that he shares with his children, Cetan, 20; Keshkoli, 18; Cinnamon, 16; Sage, 12; and Kinyaanii, 8.
He’s also enrolled in engineering courses at Los Medanos College and hopes to become the manager of his own construction business.
“There are so many people who are trying their hardest, just to get by. People like me. Struggling,” Perez said. “Sometimes all it takes is one act of kindness.”
Steve Rubenstein is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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