Life for low-income tenants can be a grind even in the best of times. In the face of a global pandemic, things are even more challenging.
"Financially it's just been a struggle, to take the little money that we do have and go buy the stuff that we need," Pomona renter Kara Gomez told me by phone.
Gomez lives in a mobile home with her six children and husband. The kids are home from school until at least April, though the family has been picking up breakfast and lunches from a drive-through at a nearby school.
"It is a huge help because they're providing milk, which is pretty hard to find right now," she said.
Life here has changed since coronavirus hit the region, Gomez added. She hasn't been letting her kids play outside. And she's been dropping off food for an elderly neighbor who has respiratory problems. The options for him are limited -- the neighbor recently had surgery and can't use a can opener. He also didn't want to accept a microwave as a gift, fearing his electric bill would climb more than he could afford.
A HISTORY OF PROBLEMS
The Pomona park, California Trailer Grove, is owned and managed by entities connected to landlord Mike Nijjar and his company PAMA Management. It was the site of a typhus outbreak in 2015 -- the first that L.A. County had seen in years.
State investigators came in afterward and found dozens of health and safety violations. Since the outbreak, the state has twice suspended PAMA Management's permit to operate the Pomona park, citing electrical hazards and sewage leaks.
Gomez said that, as the coronavirus outbreak has taken hold in Southern California, conditions at the park have been on her mind:
"A lot of people don't have running water in their homes to even wash their hands."
She said she hasn't heard a word from the management company in recent days.
In December, Gomez received a letter saying her management company was changing from PAMA to Mobile Management Services, Inc. That company's officers are longtime PAMA staffers, and the park continues to be owned by an entity connected to Mike Nijjar.
A tenant in San Bernardino told LAist he had not heard from his management company -- also connected to PAMA and the Nijjar family -- about the outbreak.
An attorney for PAMA and Mike Nijjar did not immediately respond to a request for comment about steps the company might take to address coronavirus at its rental properties, or the recent eviction moratoriums in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
KPCC/LAist's investigation reported that the PAMA Management rental empire spans an estimated 16,000 units across several California counties. It detailed longstanding concerns over safety, health and habitability at PAMA properties. PAMA rentals have been the site of a typhus outbreak, shootings, and a fire that killed a 5-month-old girl. In that last incident, state regulators charged that the "complete disregard for all Health and Safety Code statutes and regulations that are intended to protect the public led to the death of an infant."
READ THE FULL INVESTIGATION:
- Deceit, Disrepair and Death Inside a Southern California Rental Empire
- 'Decades of Neglect' 6 Key Takeaways About PAMA Management & Mike Nijjar's Real Estate Empire
- Landlord Investigation Roils City Council Race, Re-Ignites Legislation in Sacramento