First comes the awakening. Then the slow boil to anger over injustices beyond your control: more Black deaths without accountability; immigrant children in cages; the cruel and deliberate roll back of rights for women, the disabled and LGBTQ people; massive homelessness the new norm. Outrage hovers on a hair trigger then breaks through indifferent impartiality with screaming bewilderment. What to do?
Don’t lose hope before you vote, says Trinidad Ruiz (pictured above). Do something. Channel your rage into volunteering to fight against the injustice you despise –- injustices like forced evictions and homelessness. Volunteer to help pass Proposition 21.
Proposition 21 is the November ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases. It protects people against corporate landlord greed and keeps them in their homes. It’s supported by trusted civil leaders and organizations, such as U.S. Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, Congress members Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, the California Democratic Party, and the Los Angeles Times, among numerous others.
“We stand with Black Lives Matter and others who call out the terrible injustices against people of color,” says Ruiz. “Gentrification is another form of violence perpetrated against Black and Brown working-class neighborhoods. Displacement from our homes, communities, and support networks as we’re pushed out of the cities and away from our jobs and schools is a form of economic violence. Prop 21 is about taking that power away from the handful of millionaires and billionaires who control our housing in California and ensuring that housing affordability becomes a reality. Homelessness is unacceptable in any country, but in the most prosperous country in the world, homelessness is injustice.”
The threat to the California homeland is real, with robber baron billionaires like Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman taking advantage of the economic distress exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, the shuttering of businesses, and the resulting high unemployment. Today’s economic landscape eerily feels like the black pall of pre-Recession 2006-2008 as real estate marketeers snap up foreclosed homes to turn into high priced rental properties.
“Private equity firm Blackstone said its most recent real estate debt fund closed with $8 billion in total capital commitments, making it the largest property credit fund on record and a sign of demand for capital during the pandemic,” Costar News reported Sept. 22. “The haul comes as the market distress and dislocation stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic are creating attractive investment opportunities in U.S. real estate debt, according to a recent analysis from JPMorgan Assent Management.”
Wall Street vultures are perched overhead. “It is a potential bonanza for rental-home investors. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, big single-family landlords have raised billions of dollars for homebuying sprees,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Those “attractive investment opportunities” come at the expense of real people — thousands of renters and low-income homeowners facing foreclosure and the “justified” fiscal homicide of increasing homelessness.
“The cause of the unhoused situation is skyrocketing rents — landlords who harass tenants into eviction, especially the elderly to take advantage of their rent controlled units to Jack up the rent, and a persistent lack of tenant rights across the city and across the state,” says Ruiz, 45, an Echo Park resident, an organizer for AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Housing Is A Human Right division, and a passionate volunteer organizer for the LA Tenants Rights. “I have family in Tustin and Santa Ana and they tell me the same stories about how the unhoused communities are growing across our neighborhoods. It’s just inhuman. Nobody should be living on the streets.”
Ruiz is passionate about Prop 21.
“Prop 21 is a policy that will keep people housed, that will stabilize rights because of vacancy control, and will provide more tenant protections for millions of renters across the state,” he says.
Rent control is critical for retired seniors “because they are on a fixed income. They only have a certain amount of money for rent, medicine, food, clothing, bills,” Ruiz says. “So, they’re always in danger, especially when you have corporate interests wanting to evict them. It doesn’t matter where they go, as long as the landlord can get a new tenant who can pay that amount of money — that’s money in their pocket. This is why we need Prop. 21.”
Corporate real estate investors target communities of color. “Large corporations see dollar signs in the housing market in California. And rents are low in communities of color and working-class communities. So, they evict the tenants and jack up the rents — because they can.”
If the evicted don’t move to the Inland Empire, they set up a tent in the neighborhood they know, often looking at the house or apartment they once called home.
“This is not an election where you can just sit out and hope for the best,” says Ruiz. “This is an election where you have skin in the game because you need housing. And if we continue on the trajectory that we’re on without Prop 21 — it’s only a matter of time before corporate landlords put their sights on your building and you’re going to go through what everyone else is going through.”
But you can do something: volunteer to help pass Prop 21.
“You should get involved because this issue is universal and regardless of color and income, everybody needs shelter and a home,” says Ruiz. “You can go to YesOn21ca.org where there is a page where you can help out with phone banking or text banking. We’re also doing a canvassing operation where we won’t be knocking on doors — but we’ll be putting on stickies with information about Prop 21 on doors and just spreading the word. I think people, once they learn about Prop 21 and what it does, they will agree with it and they will vote for it. There is just a matter of getting the word out about Prop 21.”
How you can VOLUNTEER:
Phonebanks: Many registered Democrats are renters who are expected to vote in the first week after receiving their ballots. It is imperative to remind them to vote down ballot for Prop 21 as if their own home depends on it! A script will be provided but you bring the passion!
Text banks: Yes on 21 has set up a text banking system and you will get training. But responding to texts is where you can really move people to vote for Prop 21.
Twitter Rallies: Those who enjoy social media might want to help build the @YesOn21 community and generate support beyond our immediate reach. Tweets are provided but can be personalized.
Direct Action: Yes on 21 activists mask up and rally to support an action or protest a corporate villain.
The most consequential election of our lives is fast approaching. We need you! People facing eviction or foreclosure need you. Please go to YesOn21Ca.org to VOLUNTEER!