Four years ago I moved here from Mexico with my family and four friends. When we arrived, everything was new and foreign. We didn’t know where to go or how to start our lives over. But we found this apartment. I liked it because the neighbors speak Spanish, there are Mexican stores nearby, and it made us feel a little less lonely. So we made it our home.
Our apartment is owned by a company called The Apartment Shop, and the landlord is Stephen Frenz. Ever since we moved in, the apartment has always been in horrible condition. We had a bad cockroach infestation and we called the landlord repeatedly, but he never addressed the problem. There are also leaky pipes and leaks in the ceiling that lead to moldy walls and floors. When my daughter Regina was born, over a year ago, the cockroach infestation was so bad that we couldn’t let her lie down on the floor because the cockroaches would crawl over her or get caught in her hair. Because of this, Regina never learned how to crawl, since we always had to keep her in chairs or up off the floor. In 2017, the landlord, Stephen Frenz, lost his rental license, which means he cannot be a landlord in Minneapolis for the next five years. Now he wants to evict us.
At times it has been challenging. It’s not what I pictured when I moved here, but I have gotten to know the women who stay at home with their children and my other neighbors. I look after my neighbors’ kids while they work, and we are a community now. My home and my community are what keep me going; I don’t know what I would be without them.
In June, my landlord sent a letter saying my neighbors and I would be evicted at the end of September because he lost his rental licenses and wanted to remodel. Then in September, we all received another letter that we would be evicted by the end of February. He plans on selling the building. I knew the letters might be coming, but they still surprised me both times. The threat of eviction broke my heart, and it still does. There have been many moments when I have wanted to give up and move away from my community.
It would be so much easier to give up and move. But what kind of example would I be setting for my daughter? We deserve our home. Our daughter deserves to grow up in her community with her friends. I want my daughter to know a good life, the life she deserves. So I chose to stay and fight. I fight for myself. I fight for my neighbors. I fight for everyone in Minneapolis who has had to live in unacceptable living conditions or who has been unjustly evicted.
I am fighting for more than to stay in my home. I am also working with my neighbors toward a solution that we believe in: a tenant-run housing cooperative. We have raised over $120,000 and have lined up $4.78 million in financing to buy the buildings we live in. But so far Stephen Frenz has not agreed to sell them to us.
We want to be free in our own homes. We want to take care of our homes ourselves. We want to own our buildings—to share the ownership and work—and make sure none of us can be displaced from our neighborhood ever again.
I really do believe that we can achieve this together, and I know it would be the best solution for everyone. Our landlord, Steve Frenz, doesn’t make the repairs we need and doesn’t know our homes like we do. So we have taught ourselves how to take care of our homes as we need. The other day my neighbor came and fixed my door when the lock broke. My other neighbor taught herself how to fix a backed up sink.
We love our homes, and we are ready to take care of them and the land they are built on. We are ready to protect our homes. Now more than ever we need the support of all of our neighbors to protect our homes and make our dream of a cooperative come true. It is time to act, join us. If you want to help and get involved you can receive updates by sending a text with the word “stay” to the number 474747 or visit www.inquilinxsunidxs.org and look for Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia on Facebook. We can win this together.