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Evicted farmworkers get some relief

By JEANINE GORE, Half Moon Bay Review

Every once in awhile Mike Niece's phone rings and something remarkable happens.

On the other end of the line waits someone with offerings of clothes, food, diapers, money - whatever is needed - to make life easier for the family of Mexican immigrants and their newborn baby temporarily living in Niece's home.

In a heartwarming gesture of concern, one local woman recently dropped off a brand new stroller as a gift to the beleaguered family.

"It's really neat," said Niece, who under the nonprofit auspices of the Catholic Worker provides temporary shelter for locals in need.

"This is just a huge relief for me that those folks have a roof over their heads."

Meanwhile, similar signs of support have been trickling in elsewhere to help the 10 farmworkers and their families left without shelter or employment after being evicted July 21 from their home on Gary Marchi's Pescadero ranch.

A relief fund created two weeks ago for the workers already has raised about $825, said the Rev. Wendy Taylor of Puente Ministries in Pescadero.

Taylor called the money "a blessing" and is working to raise at least $5,000 through donations or a government grant, which will tide over the farmworkers and their families until they can find permanent jobs and housing.

The money will be used for rent, food, medical transportation, utilities and diapers among other things, Taylor said.

For years before they lost their jobs, the Mexican laborers were living with their families on Marchi's property and working in his fields, tending the Swiss chard and fava bean crops.

Although they received little in the form of payment, the farmer provided them with free housing and monthly stipends of $100 to $200. For these reasons they remained quiet and somewhat contented.

However, in February the lease on Marchi's land was terminated, leaving the penniless workers with nowhere to live and no money to pay for a move.

In the first two weeks of July, with the eviction deadline looming, the workers finally scrambled to find housing, though little was available. Four laborers have no homes and are camping out.

One man sent his loved ones back to Mexico because they had nowhere to stay. Another family packed up its car and headed for the Central Valley.

"We're in a holding pattern essentially," Taylor said, referring to the precarious state of the families' lives. "It's just about finding jobs, money and housing at this point."

The farmworkers estimate Marchi, who declared bankruptcy in 2002, owes them $175,000 collectively in back pay and are seeking legal counsel to recover at least a portion of the money.

A second meeting with a lawyer is tentatively scheduled for Thursday evening in Pescadero.

To donate to Magdalene House, call 726-6606. To give to the farmworker fund, send checks made out to Puente PCC fund to P.O. Box 791, Pescadero, CA 94060 with an enclosed memo: relocation emergency funds.


Copyright 2005Half Moon Bay Review and Pescadero Pebble.