Housing bust's ripple effect felt at bottom of Sonoma County rental market

  • Kindra Pedro, center, and Jennifer Varano, left, prepare a dinner plate for Varano's daughter, Kaylee Poni, 12, at their Santa Rosa apartment on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Pedro and Varano are recovering addicts that Catholic Charities helped with housing. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

While many of those who lost homes during the housing bust and economic meltdown may not have ended up on the street, they almost certainly disrupted the rental-housing food chain, whose lower rungs are a crucial part of housing some of Sonoma County's homeless.

Many of the almost 50,000 county residents who were forced out of their homes by foreclosures and short sales since 2007 took refuge in what quickly became a tight rental market. That, coupled with a short supply of rentals, drove rents higher and created a competitive market that has been devastating to some lower-income residents and people at risk of being homeless.

The trickle-down effect is being felt at some local homeless shelters, where the general lack of rental housing is causing a bottleneck.

"People are staying longer in shelters. We can't get them out as quickly because there's a lack of housing," said Jennielynn Holmes, program director for Catholic Charities' housing and shelter programs.

Holmes said she hasn't seen a lot of people who have lost homes in a foreclosure coming to shelters operated by Catholic Charities. "But what I am seeing is that people that were foreclosed on are moving into the rental market and that's making it harder for people with lower incomes and poor credit to move into the rental market," she said.

Kindra Pedro, 38, of Santa Rosa, is among those who have had difficulty finding a place to rent because of bad credit.

Pedro, who is currently recovering from years of drug use, has successfully been through a number of Catholic Charities housing programs designed to help homeless people into permanent housing.

Pedro's road to the streets began when she was a child, sexually abused by a family member. Her abusive past left her with the "motto," she said: "People are here just to hurt me, so I will hurt everyone I can."

She started using methamphetamine when she was 14, became pregnant at 20 and lived in one drug house after another, long after her baby boy was born. She said her son would often feed himself by opening cans of food.

Pedro hit bottom a few years ago, when she found herself making a fire to boil water outside a drug house where she was staying.

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