Paula Jimenez was days into her job working as part of Community Action Marin’s Children and Family Services team when the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns went into effect. With the governor’s shelter-in-place orders, everyone began working remotely. The Children and Family Services team at the agency led the way in the county to reopen its childcare centers, but like many working parents, Paula had to remain at home to care for her children due to the continued closure of Marin’s public schools.
During this time, the pandemic was forcing people across the county to make impossible decisions in order to best care for themselves and their loved ones. Hundreds of people lost their livelihoods and many non-essential jobs ceased to exist. People fell behind on their rent, saw family members die or take gravely ill, and mental health along with well-being concerns came front and center.
To respond to the dire challenge of keeping people housed, the Community Action Marin Safety Net team urgently built its capacity to process emergency rent applications under a County of Marin contract. Thanks to her interpersonal and language skills and the remote work option available, Paula took on a position to support the effort.
Paula expected this assignment to be just a six-month job, but as the need for rental assistance continued and additional funds were made available, she continued in her role. With three years under her belt, Paula is now a senior member of the agency’s Rental Assistance success coach team, which today includes four full-time staff. She shares:
“I feel blessed to assist clients that struggle with the economic difficulties of paying rent. These times are still difficult for a lot of families, and all are thankful for this program. I’m working with families who have many reasons for needing assistance.
“One family can’t pay their rent because the husband works in construction and does not have enough work. Another family can’t pay rent because the mother of three children had to stop working as her 3-year-old son had a complication from a heart transplant and has been hospitalized numerous times. I’ve learned a lot of different things doing this work, but to be supportive of people wherever they are is the most important.”
Chris Miranda, Safety Net Services Senior Manager, who oversees the Rental Assistance team, speaks highly of Paula and the work of the team: “As one of our bilingual case managers, Paula is very dedicated and hardworking. She is always willing to put in the extra time and effort to ensure we are able to reach and support our community members.”
Learn more about Community Action Marin’s pandemic response and advocacy wins to keep people safe and housed, and download our report on Equitable Pandemic Recovery Strategies for Marin County.