Generations of my family, including myself, call Merced home. Yet every day, like so many other residents, we face the risk of losing our house. Our home where we have built our lives and made memories with our neighbors and families for generations. Merced City Council had a solution before them this week that will impact my family and the city.
My story is not unique in Merced. I live with my extended family in one home and everyone who can, works long hours to provide the bare essentials for each other. We have to choose between going to school and living a “normal” youth life or helping provide for our family. With development and funding focused on North Merced, we feel out of place, uninvested in, and left behind in South Merced and other low-income communities in the city.
Our families can’t afford rent and we, as young people, are experiencing homelessness or facing the very real risk of not having a home at any moment — so much of our daily life is a choice between housing, gas, and food.
Merced City Council did not take action in last week’s Budget Hearing, instead of listening to the community’s call for a needed $5 million investment into a Local Affordable Housing Trust Fund (LAHTF), the majority of the council ignored constituents and passed a budget with a fraction of that.
More than thirty youth and community leaders attended the city council meeting to emphasize that research shows cities with affordable housing, well-funded schools, youth programs, job training, trauma informed healthcare, and other community services all reduce violence. We need our basic needs met as one of the fastest growing cities in California and with a housing market that is not keeping up. Housing is part of social determinants of health that can contribute to a healthy and thriving (not just surviving community).
I am a member of Power CA Action and organize with other young people in Merced. I am proud to be supporting Power California Action and along with many other organizers, we have talked to 796 voters across the city. Most of which support directing funds to the Local Affordable Housing Trust Fund and a development of a Youth Wellness Center. Merced City Council needs to act now!
When all of our neighbors have their basic needs met, we are all safer. It is time we fund what actually works. This is not politics, regardless of what district we live in, we all deserve to afford housing. We made our voice heard in the June 21st Merced City Council’s third and final budget hearing and are disappointed in the lack of investment. We deeply appreciate Councilmembers Jesse Ornelas, Fernando Echeverria, and Bertha Perez for supporting working families. I want to share a personal message to Councilmembers Kevin Blake, Sarah Boyle, and Delray Shelton as well as Mayor Matt Serratto, we are struggling and your decision to fully support the Affordable Housing Trust Fund will change lives.
Jaylene Cruz is a Merced College student who was raised in Merced, and is passionate about advocating for her community.