No Way Out of My Miserable Apartment

Delina Garcia should be a success story, instead she is struggling to get out of a terrible apartment in San Jose infested with roaches and bedbugs, and her story is not unique. After being homeless she secured a full time job, was able to get into an apartment, but the available resources to alleviate her situation and ensure she and her daughter live in a healthy and safe environment - code enforcement, legal help, even going to our local congressperson – have failed her.

I feel like a prisoner trapped in my apartment. It’s been nearly a year since I moved out of a transitional shelter with my daughter and I have so much to be proud of, but the conditions that we have been living under in our apartment has been such a heavy burden to carry. I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and on top of that, I carry a guilt of not being able to keep my daughter safe.

Before we ended up homeless, I rented a room in a house and my landlord wanted to rent the room to a family member. I made arrangements to move into another room, but those plans fell through after I had already given my notice to my landlord and I was left with only days to pack up and go. My daughter and I bounced around and because we don’t have extended family support I made the decision to go to a shelter. I thought they would help me transition and provide resources while I gave my daughter a little more stability. That wasn’t the case. Most of the women in the two-year transitional program ended up having to go to another county or live with relatives or friends because there wasn’t any housing available.  

I applied for apartments, but many wouldn’t rent to me because I didn’t work full time. However, Parkside Terrace a complex of 200 units in North San Jose returned my call within three months and because my two-year window was running out I took the opportunity even though I read on Yelp that they had problems with fleas and roaches. I thought, I’m going to make the best of it.

I wasn’t allowed to actually see the apartment until I completed all the paperwork. And when I asked the manager if the unit I was moving into had roaches he said he had never seen any when he entered the unit. When I finally did see the apartment, there were pet stains on the carpet and when I looked in the cabinets there were cockroaches. I asked the manager to spray the apartment before my daughter and I moved in because I was worried about exposing my daughter to harmful chemicals.

I had gotten a full time job with a mental health agency, bought a new car and was able to get some new furnishings for the apartment.

A couple of months later I found out about the bed bugs and finally figured out why there was always furniture building up by the trash cans. My daughter and I were getting marks on our bodies that I didn’t know what to make of. My neighbors told me that they threw out their furniture because they had bed bugs and I didn’t even know what that was. I googled it and immediately went to look at my bed and my daughter’s bed.

I went to inform the manager of the bed bugs, about the neighbors throwing out their furniture, and the bites on our bodies and the managers response was to just vacuum my unit. He asked me if I had actually seen one myself, and that the neighbors hadn’t reported anything so he didn’t know anything about it.

I then stripped all the beds and went to the laundry room in the complex and also found bedbugs in the machines.

For a while we slept in our car and I was overcome with anxiety because my daughter’s arm was swollen from bites. In a panic, I knocked on the manager’s door only to be told that this was not an emergency and I should not knock at the door and wait until Monday morning to report it.

I asked the manager about a solution to the bed bugs and he told me the pest control company was really busy and he wasn’t sure when they would come.

Later, I called the city code enforcement because there was no remedy to the bed bugs, and they said they would call the manager. Code enforcement called me to inform me that they had called the manager who said he had informed me of an upcoming scheduled spraying. The person on the line said, as long as they are doing something I don’t have to go out, and so he closed the case. No one ever came to spray. I attempted to follow up with this person, but was told he retired and no one could help.

I went to city hall to talk to Housing Department officials and they sent me to the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley because I do not live in a rent controlled apartment. I’ve reached out to city council members who also sent me to the Law Foundation and gave me a list of resources to call; I called through them all and have not been able to get help with my situation. I even introduced myself to Mayor Sam Liccardo, who told me to send him an email and ultimately I was referred again to the Law Foundation. Because of no response I even went to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren to get help and they looped me back to the Law Foundation as well.

I have been trying to leave the apartment since last July, but I didn’t want to break my lease and be negatively affected, that’s why I have asked for assistance to know the correct thing to do. I get burnt out from advocating for myself and my daughter. I feel like no one cares and nobody wants to help, in spite of all the things I did to get ahead.

My daughter and I have been sleeping on an air mattress. We haven’t really unpacked because I don’t feel safe. We threw out our brand new mattresses and couch after our apartment were sprayed for the roaches, they were damaged and ripped open when the workers sprayed inside and I felt like we would be poisoning ourselves breathing all of that in. We are still living out of trash bags. We had electrical problems and our refrigerator died out twice and nobody is accountable for that.

I have good credit, no eviction on my record; I’ve worked really hard to be able to do all of this and for there not to be any options leaves me exasperated. 

I need to get out of this apartment for my mental health, my physical health and to be able to feel like I’m providing a safe place for my daughter. Once I pay off my car, if I don’t find anything here in San Jose, then I’m going to put my things in storage and just drive somewhere far away where I’m able to afford the rent. Maybe there is hope somewhere else? 

Another apartment complex I applied to back when I was in the shelter called me recently to fill out another application and when I resubmitted they said, “Thank you, we will contact you within two weeks to two years.”

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This article is part of the categories: Community  / San Jose//South Bay 
This article is part of the tags: Code Enforcement  / Renting  / San Jose renters  / shelters  / Tenants 


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