When her California neighborhood was traumatized by drug-dealing tenants, Gloria sought the training she needed to marshal all of the community’s resources and convince the absentee landlord to replace them with residents who would put down roots, not trash it.
It’s easy to be an armchair critic, waiting for a leader to step forward to solve local problems. But as Gloria has proven, sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands – and can be remarkably effective.
A longtime resident and volunteer in San Jose, CA, Gloria and her neighbors were at their wits’ end in 2013, terrorized by the drug-dealing tenants of a house owned by an absentee landlord and getting no relief despite calls to the police and visits to the city council.
“At the peak of the problems, there were 13 people living there, with loud music playing all the time and threats when we complained,” recalls Gloria. “It was unbearable. I want my neighbors to be an extension of my family, and instead, I felt unsafe.”
When the city council sent Gloria and two others to San Jose University for leadership training, Gloria noticed another class being given at the same time by Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley
, on its Responsible Landlords Engagement Initiative. She immediately decided to take that class instead.
“They taught me what to do, step by step,” Gloria says,” beginning with taking pictures, documenting the problems, then going directly to the landlord. It was intimidating, but I did it. He just said, ‘go ahead, call the police. Do what you have to do.’ But with RLEI’s help, I didn’t give up.”
Gloria began collecting petition signatures from residents throughout the neighborhood, in the process making valuable contacts. She also revived the Arbuckle Neighborhood Assn., of which she is now president. Eight months later, the “bad” tenants were gone, replaced by a new occupant who grew up in the neighborhood and wants his kids to grow up there too. Last Christmas was the first peaceful one in seven years.
When recruiting others for her many volunteer projects, Gloria says she tells them, “You live here! This is where your children are. It will benefit the community and yourself. We can do it, if we just get together.”
2014 Dorothy Richardson Award Winners
: Never too Young to be a Leader
: Turning Tragedy into Strength
: From Bystander to ‘Upstander’
: Heart of the Community
: Teaching by Example
: Responding to the ‘Call’
: A One-Person Green ‘Multiplier’