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An L.A. Portrait: A Single Rent Increase Put This Woman on the Streets in Los Feliz

9:41 AM PDT on October 29, 2018

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]t was a sizzling Friday afternoon when María Francisca Granados Rodríguez was with her most loyal and inseparable article: a shopping cart.

Every day Rodriguez pushes her shopping cart through the streets of Los Feliz and collects recyclables to pay the monthly rent of her storage unit. Her struggle highlights a frightening scenario that keeps many working-class Angelenos up at night: being one rent increase away from winding up homeless.

Rodríguez explained in Spanish that she emigrated to the United States from Salamanca, Guanajuato, Mexico, in 1996. She was 48 years old, in search of fleeing problems in her motherland. She crossed the border by car with two other people and immediately started working the next week cleaning houses and taking care of children.

US citizens and business owners had no trouble employing her, as it the status quo to this day.

RELATED: Study: Business Improvement Districts Use Your Tax Dollars to Harass Homeless People

Rodríguez earned $100 a week to clean two-story houses and take care of up to four kids. She never would have expected that after being employed for most of her adult life, she would become homeless due to the rent increase at her apartment.

“Since landlords know that people are in need of a roof over their head they take advantage of people,” Rodríguez said.

The current median home value in Los Feliz is $1,577,200 — and estimates suggest that number is expected to rise 5.1 percent within the next year, according to Zillow. With skyrocketing rent prices, Rodríguez is a part of anywhere between 52,765 and as many as 102,955 people who every night sleep on the streets in Los Angeles County.

Rodríguez wakes up early to collect recyclables to pay her $300 storage rent, where she has all her belongings. She described herself as in declining health. She can no longer walk long distances due to the weakness in her legs. “I ask God for strength and patience because that is the one thing that can heal my feet from not hurting,” said Rodríguez.

'We are really failing as a city and as a society.'

According to the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, in 2017 the homeless count report in Los Feliz accounts for 155 unsheltered people. The majority of people are living on the streets, while others are living in tents and makeshift shelters. Although the number is low compared to other areas, residents are aware of the familiar faces surrounding the Vermont Triangle on Hollywood Boulevard, Vermont Avenue and Prospect Avenue.

Former City Councilmember Tom LaBonge led a plan to spend $850,000 in the beautification of the street medium. Now, residents are reluctant to go to the Vermont Triangle and hoping the city builds more shelters to avoid more homeless encampments there.

“I think that we are really failing as a city and as a society on addressing it and creating actual solutions for people. We are just walking past people like they are not even humans anymore and not offering people any better options,” Elena Rangel, a Los Feliz resident, told L.A. Taco.

RELATED: Casa de Clarke: A Model For Unsupervised HomelessHousing Opens in Highland Park

Photo by Gina Martinez.

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap] report by the Los Angeles County’s Housing Emergency and Proposed Solutions released in May, says Los Angeles Country needs 568,255 more affordable rental homes in order to meet the demand.

Navigating Los Feliz during the day can be far from peaceful. While Rodríguez was resting on the sidewalk next to a fire hydrant in front of a home at the corner of Harold Way and North Normandie Avenue, a woman emerged from the home in an agitated state and confronted Rodríguez, demanding that she move.

The woman told Rodríguez that if she stayed, more homeless people would gather there. The woman said she was tired of cleaning the sidewalk and waking up to “another day of trash and bowls of urine” outside of her house. She ordered Rodríguez to not leave any trash behind from her shopping cart.

The woman then urged Rodríguez to find a shelter. She said that a woman should not be on the streets alone when there are other resources available. The woman then went back into her house and declined to speak further for this story.

'There are more aggressive people now.'

The night is not an exception. Rodríguez shared that 10 years ago a man assaulted her in the streets. She got six stitches on her head and ever since that day Rodríguez fears that someone else could hurt her again.

“There are more aggressive people now. They see us in the bus sleeping and they throw alcohol on us and I am afraid that one day they may want to set us on fire,” Rodríguez said.

However, Rodríguez has met welcoming people that she can consider friends. People offer her a warm coffee and fresh breakfast in the morning. Throughout the day, other people give Rodríguez leftover food and water.

Despite the negative atmosphere towards homeless in an affluent area, Rodríguez knows that she needs to maintain a positive attitude. “Life goes on, and we have to put a good face during hard times because what else can we do,” said Rodríguez.

The reporting for this story was completed as coursework in the Journalism M.S. Program at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

RELATED: Prop 10 Clears a Hurdle for Rent Control ~ L.A. Taco Voter Guide 2018

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