COPS/Metro Advances Tenant Rights in San Antonio. Landlords Now Required to Inform Tenants of Rights
City council unanimously approved an ordinance Thursday requiring landlords and property managers to provide a document called a “notice of tenant’s rights” to tenants they want to evict, a measure they hope will curb evictions locally during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
The notice informs renters of their rights within the eviction process, provides them a list of resources, including San Antonio’s COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program, and urges renters and landlords to resolve the dispute through a payment plan before both sides have to appear in court. Landlords who do not comply face a fine up to $500, and can be given multiple citations....
The ordinance has been crafted by housing advocates, including COPS/Metro, and landlord groups, including the San Antonio Apartment Association.
San Antonio Landlords Now Obligated to Inform Tenants of Rights, San Antonio Current [pdf]
COPS/Metro, a network of grassroots community and religious organizations, wants $200 million of the city’s and county’s stimulus funds to underwrite what it describes as a GI Bill for the working poor. After beefing up the city fund for emergency housing assistance, COPS/Metro is calling for putting jobless workers through school at Alamo Colleges with a stipend.
“It would be a down-payment for the long term,” said Steve Mendoza, a COPS/Metro leader and co-author of an Express-News guest column outlining the proposal. “Tourism is not going to come back right away. And if we continue to focus on tourism, we’re going to get the same” dependence on low-wage jobs.
He added: “When there’s a crisis, there’s an opportunity.”
[Photo By William Luther, San Antonio Express-News]
Jefferson: $270 Milllion In Stimulus Aid Won't Plug Holes In San Antonio Budget, San Antonio Express News [pdf]
While it likely won’t address every need that arises from the economic downturn, [a new City program that provides $25 million in financial relief for San Antonio residents] has been touted as an example of how local government can partly fill a gap for families who don’t qualify for federal aid.
“No strings attached, no citizenship necessary, no documents, no paper necessary. Just residents in San Antonio and economic need,”
said Father Bill Kraus of Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church.
Kraus worked alongside other COPS/Metro leaders to lobby City Council to increase the fund from $15.8 million to $25 million before it gained final approval. And the organization’s leaders are still working throughout the city to identify potential solutions for immigrant families.
Angelica Reyes, a COPS/Metro leader, parent in Harlandale Independent School District, and immigrant, discovered her own challenges as her school-age children switched to at-home learning. Reyes learned that she didn’t have the basic computer skills needed to help her kids adjust to class on a computer. Reyes and other parents and decided to approach the district for help.
[Photo Credit: Scott Ball, Rivard Report]
With No Federal Aid, Immigrant Families, Students Lean on Local Support, Rivard Report [pdf]f]
Commentary: A GI Bill for San Antonio, San Antonio Express-News ]
$25 Million Housing Assistance Fund Offers Relief to San Antonians Affected by COVID-19, Texas Public Radio [pd
With a 10-1 vote, City Council increased its housing assistance program Thursday by nearly $25 million to help as many as 20,000 families pay rent, utilities, and internet bills and provide cash to purchase groceries, gas, and medicine as they cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
City staff originally proposed a $15.8 million COVID-19 Emergency Housing Program but, at the direction of Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and community advocates, the City was able to identify an additional $9.2 million from various city-related accounts.
Linda Davila, housing co-chair for COPS/Metro Alliance, said the program represents a major step toward protecting vulnerable families. However, her the community organizing group's data suggests that 30,000 local residents now teeter on the brink of financial disaster. That puts the total need closer to $70 million.
"We're going to ask the county to match that [$25 million] if they can," said Davila, who represents St. Timothy Catholic Church. "Then we'll have to go after private dollars to fill in the gaps."
COPS/Metro began pushing city leaders two weeks ago to expand the emergency funding. Because local dollars added to the pot come with fewer restrictions, they'll be available to a larger number of local residents, including those without documents.
"We weren't going to let it go," Davila said. "We met with one councilperson after the other. We met with the city manager, the assistant city managers."
San Antonio, Bexar County Boost Housing Assistance 30 Fold, Rivard Report [pdf]]
San Antonio Council Votes for $25 Million Fund to Help Residents with Rent, Food and Medicine, San Antonio Current [pdf]f]
City Council Vote on Possibly Adding Millions to Housing Assistance Fund, FOX San Antonio [pdf]
As important as the issues are that C.O.P.S. and Metro Alliance address, the relationships that leaders develop and foster within their institutions and among leaders from the racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse institutions that comprise C.O.P.S./Metro Alliance are the foundation of broad-based community organizing.
Some of the successful projects Metro Alliance and C.O.P.S. continue to work on:
After School Challenge Program:
Securing over $15.6 million in city funding for after-school enrichment programs throughout the city since 1992. The program is presently available in eight school districts at 132 schools and serves 11,000 children.
San Antonio Education Partnership:
Collaborating with businesses, communities, school districts, and universities, scholarships are awarded to public high school students who graduate with at least a B average and 95% attendance record. Since 1989, the San Antonio Education Partnership has invested more than $11 million in scholarships and produced more than 2,400 college graduates. It supports more than 3,300 current college students.
A nationally recognized community-based economic development program serving San Antonio since 1992. Places unemployed and underemployed high school graduates in a supportive, long-term job training program for high-skill, high-wage jobs available in San Antonio.
Worked with local city, county, hospital district, and school districts to require living wages be paid to all employees. Changed the City of San Antonio’s tax abatement policy to require corporate abatement recipients to pay living wages to their employees.
Directed over $25 million of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to critical street, drainage and housing needs in the central, southern and eastern areas of the city. Leveraged over $2 billion in infrastructure and education bonds by working with the San Antonio, Harlandale, North East Independent School Districts, the Alamo Community College District, the City of San Antonio, and Bexar County in successfully shaping and passing important bond proposals.
C.O.P.S. and Metro Alliance leaders work with elected officials to ensure that promised services are delivered through regular meetings and accountability sessions. The organizations also meet regularly with business leaders, city staff, and other decision makers throughout the city and state.
COPS/Metro's strength is in its members: the religious institutions, labor locals, and other nonprofit and civic institutions that share a concern for community and are rooted in traditions of democracy. COPS/Metro is broad-based and works in the interest of our community's families, as an interfaith organization that embraces a membership of both religious and secular institutions.
As COPS/Metro members, institutions commit to building "organizing teams" or “action teams” of leaders and potential leaders to work on local issues identified by the team. By joining with other institutions that have similar goals and concerns, COPS/Metro members increase their collective power and work to achieve victories on local and city-wide issues. Member institutions pay dues to ensure COPS/Metro has a secure and independent core budget.
Current dues-paying member institutions include:
- American Federation of Teachers
- Congregation of Divine Providence
- Divine Redeemer Presbyterian
- El Carmen
- First Unitarian Universalist
- Holy Family
- Holy Redeemer
- Holy Rosary
- Immaculate Conception
- Macedonia Baptist Church
- Our Lady of Guadalupe - Helotes
- Our Lady of Guadalupe - San Antonio
- Presentation Sisters
- SA RISE
- Sacred Heart
- San Antonio Alliance of Teachers & ESPs
- San Antonio Firefighters Association
- San Juan de los Lagos
- Sisters of the Holy Spirit
- Southside Education Association
- St. Alphonsus
- St. Bonaventure
- St. Francis of Assisi
- St. John Baptist Church
- St. Leo the Great
- St. Margaret Mary
- St. Philip of Jesus
- St. Timothy
If you are interested in forming an organizing team with your local institution, contact the COPS/Metro Alliance office.
The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) began in Chicago in 1940 under the leadership of Saul Alinsky, author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals. IAF Network organizations throughout the United States and England work on multiple issues and develop structures through which ordinary citizens can effectively negotiate with the government and private institutions that affect their lives. There are no individual members of IAF organizations; rather institutions make human and financial commitments to participate in these networks.
San Antonio has two IAF organizations. In 1974, Communities Organized for Public Service (C.O.P.S.) formed the first IAF organization in the Southwest Network. Two additional IAF organizations formed in San Antonio in the early 1980s: the East Side Alliance, composed of African American and Hispanic low- and lower-middle income churches, and the Metropolitan Congregational Alliance, which included South, Central, and Northwest area Anglo and Hispanic Protestant lower-middle and middle-income churches. The Metro Alliance formed in 1989 through a merger of the East Side Alliance and the Metropolitan Congregational Alliance. Today, C.O.P.S. and the Metro Alliance share many resources and work collaboratively. Like other IAF organizations, COPS/Metro is a broad-based citizens' organization comprised of religious and other non-profit institutions.
● To provide a historical record of the achievements of a nationally recognized broad-based community organization
● To provide a record and access to materials for current and future researchers
● To offer an educational mechanism that can serve as a heritage tool for future generations so that they can more fully understand the impact of their parents’ work in gathering the power needed to make San Antonio a more vibrant and equitable city
● To provide a repository for an oral history collection connected with the archival material
● To showcase material from the collection at an exhibit commemorating the organization’s 40+ years of organizing
The finding aid for the COPS/Metro Alliance archives is available online.