The white house on the end of N. Fremont Street, where earlier this month up to 40 Filipino tenants were evicted because of fire and building code violations, seems utterly quiet now - except for the sounds of drills and hammering from the inside.
While renovations take place to bring the building up to code, much of the former residents' belongings remained piled up in heaps in the garage. The folded up mattresses, books, a couch, and garbage bagged clothing will only stay a few more days for residents to claim before they are taken to the dump, according to Miguel Lacaro, who started the long process of cleaning and repairing the place two weeks ago.
All but three elderly residents and the owner are gone now. No one, including the city and the social service agencies who stepped in to help out, know exactly where five of the families are. And they will not be able to come back, because the city's zoning and building code laws designate the two-bedroom house for a single family.
Many of the families are not even in the area anymore. Three of the families have moved to Virginia, where one of the parents has relatives, according to Floro Eriquez, an elderly resident who now lives in the approved back section of the house after moving out of his home in the garage.
One family may have moved back to the Philippines, but no one knows for sure. Two single adults, one of whom is pregnant, are staying temporarily at the Maple Street shelter, according to Tanja Rieck, intake coordinator of the Shelter Network.Another family interviewed with Samaritan House but declined to be placed in an emergency shelter because there is "no privacy"-- instead they went to stay with people they knew in Hayward, according to Samaritan House reports.
According to Eriquez, three of the families evicted came back to the house a few days later. "Afterward they came back here - no where to go, nowhere to live," he said. Rieck from the Shelter Network said they made preparations for them to come to the shelter, but none of the families came.
"I figured a lot of the people had found friends or family to stay with. We were ready to help them out, but it's their decision whether they want to stay or not," she said. If they had chosen to stay, they would have been placed in a divided room with bunkbeds while they applied for a longer term housing program, according to Rieck.
By now, all the families have found somewhere to go, but no one knows exactly where. And then there's Floro Eriquez, a single 72-year-old, who is still looking for a place to stay. He works security at the airport and has had to cut his work down to three days a week while he looks for housing. He found a room in a shared apartment space in Daly City, but the $500 per month he needs is twice what he was paying, and is more than he can afford. He doesn't know what he'll do next.
Robert Muehlbauer, manager of the Neighborhood Improvement and Housing Department, said the city is seeking to be better prepared to handle a case like this in the future. "We want to have a contingency plan, instead of being in a reactive mode--not having a response or an adequate response. In this housing market it's always going to be a crisis," Muehlbauer said. He added that there are likely other houses out there with similar overcrowding, and when the city comes across them, they'll have to deal with the same situation again.
The owner, Art Estorco, is finishing up the renovations on the house. According to Building Inspector Rick Caro, Estorco, he is thinking about applying for a new permit that would add four apartments to the upper floor of the house. But that's a question for zoning, and Estorco has to finish knocking down the 24 makeshift walls and at least four bathrooms first.