By Jordan Esparza
In the beginning of December, my dad contacted our apartment building ownership to let them know we would be looking to extend our lease. We decided that, at least for another 6 to 12 months, we would stay put and reassess our living situation at some point in the next coming year. At the time, we were renting a two bedroom apartment in the 7th ward of Waukegan, Illinois. It wasn’t much. Like most apartments and housing these days, you don’t even really get what you pay for.
On December 21st–ten days until the end of the month, and four days before Christmas–building ownership responded to my dad letting him know that if we chose to extend our leasing agreement we would have to increase our rent payment by nearly double. As you can imagine, this wasn’t possible. Not only was it outside of our financial means, we had less than a pay period to come up with double the money for our home.
It was devastating. We spent the next week endlessly searching for a place that we could afford and would approve our application in a rapid fashion. Luckily, we found a place on the 30th and began the move that night.
My family has always been way closer to poverty than we have been to affluence, throughout my life. And, in this instance, we were genuinely a couple hundred bucks away from being homeless. The reality that, “it could happen to anybody“ hit me that day of the 21st when I was told our rent would double if we wanted to stay put. How is this just?
Much of America is aware that we are in a full-blown housing, encompassing all forms of housing–home ownership, homelessness, rent disputes, and more. In America, ownership is the bottom line; the end-all-be-all. If there is ownership, there is no need for humanity. Thankfully, my dad and I were able to handle this situation–barely, but we did. What about the others, though? What about my downstairs neighbor who they informed on the same day as us that they would no longer be accepting her section 8 voucher? What is to happen to her and her family?
At the bottom of this article you will see no GoFundMe account, Cash App, Zelle, or any kind of fundraising effort. That’s not what I’m here for, and I particularly do not need saving. I want action. As a people, we need to demand rights and protections for renters. We need this information to be abundant and we need a humane relationship between property owners and renters. If anyone knows of any policymakers currently working towards this I would love to extend my lived experience in advocacy for the cause.
A nation with mass homelessness is not a strong nation. A nation of mass poverty is not a strong nation. A government set up to only work for big business is not beneficial to the people. I ask that you all just meditate on the situation that I’ve explained and ask yourself “how much longer are we willing to wait for change? How much longer are we willing to wait for a better opportunity at a good life?” We cannot wait. These are things that we must seize. Our lives, collectively, depend on it.