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Gloria with her fellow Safe Return colleagues.

Tough to Find Secure Housing During the Pandemic

on November 27, 2020

It was a warm day in August when Gloria Schroeder received a panicked call from her roommate that they were being evicted. She had barely arrived for work after dropping off her 8-month-old daughter, Davina, at daycare. 

The 22-year-old relied on public transport to get everywhere. Once she got closer to the house, she saw police outside. They told her she had five minutes to pack what she could and leave. If she didn’t, they would arrest her. 

Panic and confusion set in. She hurried to her room, but as police continued to yell from outside, she froze, overcome with emotion. After a few minutes, Schroeder managed to pack what she could and go outside.

That’s when Schroeder and her daughter realized they had lost their housing.

For the next few weeks, the young mother tried to find another place to live in Richmond, where she works, but it was to no avail. Without established credit and very little money in her bank account, Schroeder ended up moving into her mother’s one-bedroom apartment in Richmond.

“I’m still trying to figure out what happened,” said Schroeder. “I’m a single mom and I’m young. It’s hard when they put so many obstacles in the way.” 

A report by the Prison Policy Initiative found that formerly incarcerated individuals are 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general population.

“Housing has always been a need and a challenge for people impacted by incarceration and criminalization,” said Tamisha Walker-Torres, executive director of the Safe Return Project, where Schroeder has worked since her release three years ago from Martinez Detention Facility. She had spent a couple of months at the prison after being convicted of drug possession.

The Safe Return Project, according to its vision statement, “seeks to empower formerly incarcerated people across the state, addressing the root causes of poverty and the impact that the criminal justice system has had on black people and communities of color.” They involve local community in their programs to help support individuals as well as highlight the issues with reentry.

Safe Return Project officials tried to help Schroeder find housing, but they were unable to find a place that was close to her work.

Now living in cramped quarters with her mother, Schroeder is doing the best she can to rebuild her life and stay in the community she loves.

“I’ve lived in Richmond my whole life,” said Schroeder.

It’s been two months since she’s moved in with her mother. Although her mother is supportive, it’s tough. Her daughter’s toys are scattered across the floor since there is nowhere else for them to go. She feels like a burden on her mom and is hoping to find her own place but that is easier said than done. 

“I want to get a house on my own and not be in her way,” said Schroeder, “It’s difficult for me to get housing in Richmond,”

(Gloria Schroeder, second from right enjoys a day out with her colleagues from the Safe Return Project.)

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