If we meet our goal, we can help at least 20 families in urgent financial crisis. Several of these families are undocumented and are having significant difficulty accessing local and state resources in a timely manner. Thanks to a generous donor, we have already delivered $1,500 cash to three different families in crisis and will continue to hand-deliver $500 donations to our students' doorsteps.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced on April 15, 2020 a $125-million relief effort to help roughly 150,000 Californians without legal immigration status. The proposal will offer $500 cash grants for undocumented individuals in the U.S. and up to $1,000 for families, with applications set to be accepted starting next month. Our Helms families need help now! We must act locally and as a community to support the families we know have been struggling for weeks and need immediate financial relief.
As a full-service community school serving nearly 900 7th and 8th graders, Helms works diligently to support the physical, academic, and social-emotional needs of all our students. Helms Middle School is also home to the Helms Internationals Academy (HIA) in collaboration with the Internationals Network for Public Schools, which serves 100 newcomer students from 15 different countries who are in their first 4 years of residency in the U.S. We understand that immigrant and refugee families are enduring additional economic stressors during these unprecedented times. Through a survey distributed to 100 HIA students and families last week, teachers and support staff have already identified 20 families who are reporting urgent to somewhat urgent financial concerns, and only 35% of the surveys have been returned. Some parents have reportedly lost their jobs in construction, restaurants, and domestic services. They do not have enough money to pay their bills. While meals have been distributed daily at Helms and throughout the district, many families are still struggling to put enough food on the table and make ends meet.
Here is a translated message a Helms staff member received from a determined father: "I have been unemployed for more than 4 weeks. I am already desperate due to rent payment, lawyers costs, electricity bills, etc. The reason I was laid off from my job was due to Coronavirus. I have no one to help me. What advice can you give me? I deeply appreciate it. I feel sorry to communicate this problem. Please forgive me." Three other families reported being out of work for the past month and struggling to provide for their families of 4, 6, and 7.
Despite the 90-day state moratorium on rent through May 31, 2020, undocumented renters will accrue debt that could be almost impossible to make up with the hourly wages they were making before the shelter-in-place, putting them at greater risk of eviction when the moratorium is lifted. Furthermore, for those who do not have written leases or subleases, it is uncertain whether the moratorium will protect them from eviction. While rent assistance is a huge concern in the long-term, we want our families to have one less thing to worry about now.
It is extremely painful for us to see our Helms students and families suffer because they are caught between the system. We as a community must come together to support these families who have no other option.
Thank you for reading and considering us!
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Fundraising team: Helms Middle School Solidarity (5)
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