Rent, Stress, and the Pandemic in San Francisco’s Latinx Immigrant Community
This survey was developed and gathered by El Tecolote with the support of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism 2020 Impact Fund, and in collaboration with Mujeres Hacia El Conocimiento in alliance with Excelsior Works. El Tecolote (c) 2021
El Tecolote conducted an anonymous survey on the experience of our Latino immigrant community in the pandemic. Over the next two months, we will continuously update this page with key data findings and links to related stories. Come back and visit us often! If you would like to stay informed when we publish our next related story please sign up for our newsletter.
Our survey responses were gathered from May 10-26, 2021. In total we gathered 391 responses.
Nearly all respondents are foreign born Latinx immigrants, nearly all are tenants. Slightly over half are women. Most respondents are in the age group of 24-50 years old. The vast majority of respondents live in the five San Francisco neighborhoods most impacted by COVID-19 case rates: BayView/ Hunters Point, Visitación Valley, Tenderloin, Mission and Excelsior. Foreign born Latinx respondents are primarily from Mexico and Central America. Spanish is the dominant primary language, but English is also spoken in many homes. The survey captured an important response from Mayan Yucatec speakers (31 responses).
Rent debt in the first year of the pandemic and now
Rent debt in May 2021
Rent stress in the first year of the pandemic
When we asked respondents what level of stress paying the rent made them feel during the first year of the pandemic, close to 60 percent responded that they felt extremely stressed or high stress.
Equally stressful were the home utilities bills (gas, electricity, water, trash and wifi). And for respondents with dependents living through the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru and other Latin American nations, the need to send remittance monies back home also caused the majority of those people extreme or high stress.
Level of income in the first year of the pandemic
Over 80 percent of respondents said that they had made less, much less or no income during the first year of the pandemic when compared to the year before the pandemic.
Debt with friends and family to cover expenses
60 percent of respondents asked family and friends for loans to cover their pressing expenses.
Savings used or depleted to cover expenses
A near 80 percent of our respondents resorted to using or depleting their savings to cover their pressing expenses, such as rent and utilities bills during the first year of the pandemic.
The Tecolote Survey 2021 was developed and gathered in two phases.
Development phase. The survey content was defined with the help of Vanessa Villalta, Marlen Villalta, Ana García, Rossmery Ferro, María del Rubí Merino, and María Elena Ramos; six Latinx immigrant women, members of Mujeres Hacia el Conocimiento, during four consecutive Saturday sessions in April. We are incredibly grateful to Casa de Apoyo Excelsior, and Oscar Grande, who allowed the use of their office space for those weekends to develop the survey in a COVID-19 safe setting.
Camarena applied participatory action research techniques to develop questions based on the member’s experience and knowledge. A google form survey was drafted based on each Saturday session, and the same participants tested the draft survey with Latinx immigrant community members. The survey answers and the participants' experience was brought back into the fold of a new group discussion to redefine the survey draft.
A final draft survey was developed, and El Tecolote requested feedback from Rajni Banthi Evaluation Director of MEDA; Dr. Neeta Thakur, UCSF/SFGH pulmonologist and researcher into social determinants of respiratory diseases, Roberto Hernández, head of the Housing Committee of the Latino Task Force for Covid-19; and David Washburn, Senior Fellow Advisor and Danielle Fox, Community Engagement Director both of the Center for Health Journalism (USC Annenberg). The survey benefited from their expertise.
Survey gathering phase. El Tecolote relied on the top-notch promotora experience of the co-founders of Mujeres Hacia El Conocimiento, Maria Elena Ramos and María del Rubí Merino to develop a tele-survey strategy. Given their work relationship and reputation with Excelsior Works, the organization allowed us to contact their client base and use their office space for six work week evenings to launch a tele-survey effort. El Tecolote and Mujeres Hacia El Conocimiento spent one Saturday in the Tenderloin to gather responses. In general, the Tenderloin, the Bay View and Excelsior are underrepresented in Latinx client organization databases, which led to a focused street-level effort in this neighborhood in particular.
We are very grateful to Excelsior Works for supporting our project. The project had an extremely limited budget for the number of hours poured into this survey, and it would not have been possible without an alignment of goals between El Tecolote and Mujeres Hacia El Conocimiento, which allowed for a successful partnership. The members of Mujeres Hacia El Conocimiento who participated in gathering the survey were Elisabeth Juárez, Ana Guadalupe García, Rossmery Ferro, María del Rubí Merino, and Ma. Elena Ramos. Adriana Camarena of El Tecolote accompanied the survey gathering process.
Finally, we are endlessly grateful to the survey respondents, who took the time, often at the end of a long work day or on their one free day to develop, gather or answer our survey.
News stories related to El Tecolote Survey 2021
Our commitment to respondents was to deliver survey results back to our community, and raise up the voices of the Latinx immigrant people of the City. We provided the option in our survey of sending them a link to their mobile phone or email once results came in. We also provided an option to participate in a follow-on interview with El Tecolote to learn more about their experience during the ongoing pandemic.
Our related news stories feature survey respondents interviewed by Adriana Camarena (freelance community journalist) and/or Alexis Terrazas (editor) of El Tecolote. Our interviewees enrich our understanding of the Latinx experience in the pandemic with their wisdom and knowledge of the personal, social, economic, and cultural reasons that informed or limited their choices during the pandemic.
In general, the survey process has made El Tecolote a better news outlet since we understand how some policy measures were never tailored to the realities of our Latinx community, and that on many occasions, critical information was not communicated in time to the populations with the greatest vulnerabilities to the impact of the pandemic.