Amidst a housing crisis, those displaced by roof collapses look for long-term solutions
Gary Whitford was listening to his house talk last Wednesday, February 8. It was popping, crackling and snapping like it had been doing since the big dump in January, but this time there wasn’t a break between the noises and they were getting louder.
He and his neighbor went out to look at the roof. Whitford said it was slowly sliding off the rafters, and taking a wall with it. His neighbor, Manny, told his son it was time to go. The snaps got louder and Whitford was getting ready to exit, too, but before he could tie his laces, the roof caved in, filling his couch with snow and rafters.
Whitford was told later he would have been killed if he was sitting on the couch when the roof gave in.
He escaped and walked a short distance to Giovanni’s Pizza where his roommate Israel “Willy” Plazola Rodriguez works. Whitford and Willy reenacted the conversation they had.
“Willy, I’ve got good news and bad news.”
“What’s the good news?”
“There isn’t any.”
“What’s the bad news?”
“The roof collapsed.”
Willy said he didn’t believe it until he saw it with his own eyes. But the two had keys to a Shilo Inn room in less than 30 minutes, courtesy of the landlord, Ed Schuyler.
On Saturday, February 11, Red Cross representatives from Los Angeles set up an emergency shelter at the Mammoth High School in the prop room for the Drama Department, adjacent to the gymnasium.
There are currently 19 units/apartments in Mammoth affected by snow that compromised the integrity of structures. Only two families needed shelter over the weekend and by Monday, it was just Willie and Whitford left. The Whitmore Animal Shelter was opened to house family pets.
The Mono County Shelter Coordinator, who wished to remain anonymous, stayed in the shelter with families that first night to show solidarity and emotional support. The Coordinator explained the Sheriff’s Department notifies the county a shelter is needed and the county works with the Red Cross that has a memorandum of understanding with the agency to provide assistance.
Inyo-Mono Advocates for Community Action has put a link on its website, www.IMACA.net, to an application for services that may be offered to qualified low-income residents that have been affected by the recent storms. The application needs to be printed, filled out and faxed to 760.873.8182.
But, even with cash in hand, housing is hard to find in Mammoth. The Coordinator explained many of the units affected were older buildings with low rent. It will be hard enough to find a place to live, much less one that’s affordable.
Willy said he got his deposit back along with the rent for February, as required by law if a landlord cannot provide safe housing in exchange for rent. But, he said, it won’t cover the first, last and security deposit most landlords demand from new tenants.
Willy and Whitford haven’t had a chance to re-enter their apartment to survey their loss, but, “It’s not the best, but it’s been a great experience,” Whitford said.