Donations pour in for Oakland women's shelter facing eviction after 75-percent rent hike

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A women's shelter in West Oakland that urgently needed to raise $14,000 by Saturday or else faced eviction has met its goal -- and then some.

Donations to Serenity House -- which has provided services and housing to women who are survivors of addiction, homelessness and incarceration for the past decade -- poured in Friday night. One anonymous donor gifted the shelter $5,000.

Serenity House's financial problems began last year when the rent on the 4-bedroom home in West Oakland where they shelter women went up 75%.

"Our rent had been $2,000 and it went up to $3,500 and it's tough," Jataun Mills, Serenity House Executive Director, explained. "It's tough to pay that on a monthly basis considering that we don't charge the women to come into the program."

The shelter used grants to pay for the increased rent last year, but this year it got to be too much. The center is now four months behind on paying rent. Their landlord gave them until July 20th to pay the $14,000 they owe.

Valerie Harder is a Serenity House board member whose sister went through the program. She turned to GoFundMe as part of a last-ditch effort to raise the funds.

"If you think about it, $14,000 is not a huge amount of money with all of the money you see in the Bay Area," Harder said. "And so why is it such a struggle to pay the rent?"

By Friday night, the GoFundMe had taken off. The shelter had raised far more than their $14,000 goal.

But even that won't solve all their problems. As housing costs rise, the challenge to continue paying rent will continue.

"This whole kind of systemic struggle for us to be able to stay here and do the work that we need to do here," Mills said.

So what's the plan long-term? That's still to be determined.

"The thing is, we need to be here," Mills said, "Because as long as the people are here, we need to be here."
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