People with disabilities are in special need of tenant relocation assistance program

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Mary Zendejas, executive director and founder of Professional Abilities Association of America/DisABLED Professionals Association, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

I’ve been an active member of our Long Beach community for over 25 years. First as a student leader at Cal State Long Beach and most recently as a long time advocate for people with disabilities. I founded the Professional Abilities Association of America/DisABLED Professionals Association, and was appointed to serve on the Long Beach Transit Board of Directors. I am currently the Director of Regional Accounts at GNS Medical Supplies.

I love our city so much. And I’m proud to live here and advocate for others who need support or have special needs. That’s why I strongly support the tenant relocation assistance program that the City Council will consider this week.

I applaud the mayor and City Council for taking up this issue. It is so important for residents like me, who live everyday in a wheelchair and are mobility impaired. Being a renter in this market is tough, but being a renter and with a disability and finding stable employment is even harder.

I know this struggle all too well. Like many people with disabilities, I know how difficult it is to find housing. And as a transit board member, I advocate for people who can only get around by using public transit. I am one of those people. Finding an affordable apartment with access to transit to get to and from work is a big challenge—but I do it, just like many other Long Beach residents that live with disabilities.

But our community needs help.

Not only do I strongly support creation of a tenant relocation assistance program, but I encourage the City Council to adopt a key proposed provision that would provide an additional $2,000 for people with disabilities and seniors who are being displaced from their homes.

People with disabilities are in danger of becoming homeless without housing stability. This is a real fear that people with disabilities live on an everyday basis, especially for those who live on a fixed income or who have a tight budget due to the extra cost that come with living with a disability. It is well known that there is a housing crisis in many cities in California, including Long Beach. The average cost of a rental unit has increased more than 22 percent in the last decade, while wages for most people have remained flat. Many families are paying more for housing and many are at risk of becoming homeless.

Losing one’s home—and having to find another—is incredibly disruptive for anyone. Imagine how much harder it would be to do that if you rely on a wheelchair to get around. In addition you would need to find a rental that was wheelchair accessible to be able to live independently. The challenges are that there is a limited amount of wheelchair accessible rentals and the ones that are available, most likely are double or triple the rent that a person with a disability is paying currently. Providing additional assistance for renters with disabilities makes sense and will provide an extra level of support and protection.

I urge the City Council to pass a tenant relocation ordinance and to include the additional $2,000 for those of us that really need the assistance.

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