I Don't See My Parents Because They Are Working To Pay Rent

A local Lincoln High School Student shares her family's struggles renting in San Jose, reflecting the larger picture of what families pay not only in money, but in valuable time missed with family to afford to call San Jose home.

In San Jose it’s becoming much more evident how the prices to rent are starting to shoot through the roof and it’s starting to hit close to home more than ever.

I grew up in a very poor household with immigrant parents working at the typical bodega. We couldn’t afford to buy a house or rent a much better apartment than what we had. The apartment we used to live in was literally collapsing on us. There wasn’t a corner that did not have mold; we spent so much money painting over it. We couldn’t have people over, we’d be fearful that a cockroach would show up. They would typically infest and take over the whole place at night, but they’d still make a debut during the day. My parents paid $1,000 to live here, and this was back in the 90’s – the price was too high for living in a death trap.

My mother repeatedly said that if it weren’t for my brother and I, she’d prefer to live under a bridge, arguing that it’d be much better than that place, but my brother and I needed shelter. Now, why would the landlord ever charge $1000 for the rat hole of the apartment we lived in? He would argue that it was the area, the area code of the rich in San Jose: Willow Glen in the 95125 zip code.

We all knew that the area was expensive, but the real reason of overpricing that pathetic excuse of a home was because my parents weren’t documented; they couldn’t possibly sue, so why not take advantage of the situation? We wouldn't have anywhere else to go, we had a very worn down old van and our school was walking distance from the place. No one else would rent to us because my parents had no ID or Social Security to run credit or prove residency.

Eventually life turned itself around when my parents took the initiative to become U.S. residents. We were able to rent another apartment on the same street as our previous apartment for $1,300. The place was much cleaner and spacious, however it only had two rooms and we were 6 people: My mom, dad, brother, sister, and her husband and son and myself. My brother and I had to sleep in bunk beds in the living room to let my sister and her family stay in one room and my mom and dad in the other room.

Soon, my sister and her family moved out so my brother and I got to share a room, great. That’s what every teenage girl dreams of, sharing a room with their brother.

About five months passed from when we moved into that new place when we got the news that the price of rent was going up. The rent shot up to $1,700. This was an insane amount of money to pay that my parents certainly didn’t have.

In order to pay rent, my dad had to get a second job and my mom had to go back to work. Now my dad is working about a 16-hour day. Eight hours in landscaping from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., followed by the second job as a janitor from 5 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. My mom works with him in the janitor job, so my brother and I don’t see our parents all day. If we are lucky and they are not working, we have them for the weekend.

What’s the point of overworking yourself in harsh jobs, if no one appreciates it and sees you as insignificant? Just another person to do the jobs nobody else wants to do? What’s the point of spending more time with trash cans and mops than with your own family. I guess the point is to be able to live in San Jose in an insignificant small two bedroom apartment surrounded by big houses that look down on you, all for the convenient price of $1,700 a month. I believe this is what many people call the American Dream? But hey, I sure am happy that I can write down my prestigious zip code on documents, because that’s what everyone cares about right? A zip code.

I was born into a life with hard working parents that don’t deserve to exploit their bodies in these jobs, but choose to do so in order to provide us with everything we need to secure our future. The living situation in San Jose needs to improve. My family isn’t the only one living through bad times, there are families out there moving to places such as Fresno, that offer little to no work, yet they have to drive extensive hours to get to San Jose and other cities to work. These families are faced with the hard reality that they have to move away from friends and family. Just last year, I lost a friend to the city of Modesto. The only reason my family hasn’t moved yet would be because my parents are breaking their backs working, but how is it fair?

Related Media:
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More Resources for San Jose Tenants with New Legal Clinic

Tenants Want San Jose to Strengthen Renter Protections

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

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