Providing hope, compassion and support to those most vulnerable in our community during the pandemic

Catholic Charities Case Manager Gloria del Mar Garcia Lemus navigates back-to-back calls from individuals seeking rental assistance at the agency’s Mission District office in San Francisco.

“I was behind in rent ever since the pandemic started,” says Emma, one of Catholic Charities San Francisco’s thousands of rental assistance clients who lives with her teenage daughter in a small, one-bedroom apartment near Candlestick Park. “During shelter-in-place, I lost both my jobs and by the time my first unemployment check arrived in June, my rent was already three months overdue and my landlord was threatening to evict us. I needed help.”

Emma turned to Catholic Charities. Gloria del Mar Garcia Lemus, Catholic Charities case manager, was the one to answer Emma’s call.  Listening to numerous stories from families who are vulnerable because they have lost their jobs and are now struggling to pay rent, Lemus listens compassionately and finds sustenance from two words, “Be Kind,” written in bold letters in the notebook on her desk. “Families are facing unbearable financial burdens,” Lemus says. “They have used up their savings and are facing eviction. In addition to assistance with their emergency rent subsidy applications, we provide them with emotional support.”

When Lemus recently informed Emma that her application was approved and would cover her next two months of rent, Emma breathed a huge sigh of relief. “I am so grateful. This will help my family.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Catholic Charities has received more than 10,000 rental assistance applications from residents in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties. Phone-lines and emails are flooded with requests for help. This dire need locally is reflected nationwide as an astonishing 7.9 million tenants revealed in a U.S. Census Bureau survey that they had “little or no confidence” in their ability to pay next month’s rent.

With the assistance from individuals, faith communities, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, United Way, the City of San Francisco and State of California, Catholic Charities San Francisco has helped thousands of Bay Area people in need and still there are thousands more who need help.

Lemus is grateful she can serve so many people each day. She and her fellow case managers at Catholic Charities Mission District office in San Francisco have erected a small “Hope and Gratitude Tree” adorned with thank you notes from individuals like Emma. The notes hearten and remind Lemus, “We’re playing an important role. We are in this together.”  Indeed, together, we can accomplish the remarkable.

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