With the holidays approaching and COVID-19 vaccinations now available to children ages 5-12, the pandemic may seem an afterthought. But for the staff of Community Services Agency in Mountain View, demand hasn’t let up since it began in March 2020.
“It’s not back to normal,” executive director Tom Myers said. “It’s a new normal.”
When the state’s eviction moratorium ended Sept. 30, rental assistance became even more important, according to Myers.
“We’re finding more and more people are ... falling into the conundrum of having to figure out: ‘What do I pay for in order to pay for the rent? What do I give up?’” he said.
CSA estimates that 1,200 families in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View may be at risk of eviction in the upcoming months.
Although CSA doesn’t have a final tally of how many families have faced eviction, “we are still concerned that we’re talking about over 1,000 families that may be at risk,” Myers said.
CSA’s LaDrea Clark added that she gets calls from people seeking rental assistance even though she works primarily as a volunteer coordinator.
“They just want to talk to somebody,” she said.
Clark noted that she’s also received emails that read, “Please help me.”
What sets this year apart from last year, according to CSA, is the lack of volunteers and donations to match the high demand for services – a demand that remains similar to 2020.
“What has fallen a little bit is the number of people who are donating and volunteering,” Myers said.
Clark added, “Things are opening up, so maybe that’s the reason.”
Myers encouraged anyone who needs help – or thinks they might – to call or drop by CSA to get in touch with a case worker.
“Don’t wait until the end of the month to come and see us,” he said. “Come and see us as soon as possible, because to prevent homelessness is so much easier and so much cheaper than to actually try and house someone who is homeless.”
Myers, a longtime Los Altos resident, noted that CSA has taken on 15 times more rental assistance cases than in pre-pandemic years and has distributed more than $5 million in rental assistance since March 2020.
As CSA looks ahead to the holidays, Myers and his staff hope to provide more direct financial assistance, allowing clients the discretion to spend as needed. Whether it’s offering direct payments or moving away from a toy-based to a gift-card-based program for Christmas, the focus is on economic empowerment for clients.
“Everything we do here is about choice,” Clark said, “because it gives them dignity.”
The city of Mountain View recently authorized a $1 million donation to CSA to provide direct financial assistance to city residents who seek help at the organization.
CSA is located at 204 Stierlin Road. For more information on volunteering, call (650) 968-0836 or email Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the agency and its services, visit csacares.org.