Household of essential workers receive rental relief, will stay in Bay Area


One San Jose family is sharing their story about a gift they’re receiving this holiday season that kept them from becoming homeless.

They are a household of essential workers. Single mother Marniee Swanson and her daughter Madeline have weathered a rough road this year.

“It’s been quite an adjustment and a shock, but also kind of empowering,” says Swanson.

After 20 years teaching, she says she lost her job at a Montessori school when it shut down for good in March during the shelter-in-place order.

“I’m one of those people who have a hard time asking for help,” says Swanson.

But when she learned about the Housing Industry Foundation’s Emergency Housing Fund, she applied for and received $4,600 in rental assistance from the nonprofit.

“It helped me relax and realize that I could take a few breaths and we wouldn’t be homeless,” says Swanson. The financial help enabled the family to stay in their three bedroom apartment.

The Housing Industry Foundation says it is on track to provide rent relief to 500 households this year, including many essential and frontline workers such as the Swansons in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

It says it has helped to connect an additional 40 families with affordable housing that is up to 50% below market rates.

“The idea is to get folks over a financial crisis so they can get back to work or they just got a job and they can begin earning more money,” says Steve Sullivan, executive director of Housing Industry Foundation.

Swanson found another job working at a supermarket. Her son deferred college and is now working full-time at a hardware store. Madeline, a high school senior, works as a manager at a fast food restaurant. All three are pooling their resources to make ends meet.

“It was stressful. It was scary, but you have to get through it. You have to grow up at this point,” says 17-year-old Madeline.

Swanson, a San Jose native, says the help is making it possible for her and other essential workers to  stay in their homes.

“I love the Bay Area. Been here all my life. I really think we are the backbone of our community,” says Swanson.

She hopes to get back to teaching when the pandemic is over.

But she’s grateful that she and her two children are contributing and surviving as essential workers while serving their community.