I met David Cherbak 12 years ago, when he was writing the Rodger Dodger police scanner reports for Edhat. David was a foremost neighborhood watcher on Milpas, stationed in his tiny studio home right across from the Habit. He’d alert me to emergencies in my neighborhood, Milpas, and areas I work as a community organizer. I loved this!

David Cherbak, aka Rodger Dodger, home again

David is an old-school tenant, a relic from the days in 1998 when you could rent a rotgut hovel in this town for $685, when David moved in. You could look a landlord in the eye and do a verbal handshake agreement. You paid the rent on time and didn’t cause police visits or have loud parties.

All that changed when David’s landlord passed away, and the property was sold. David got an eviction notice in January. Everyone around him got renovicted.

David contacted me, seeking help.

I’ve never had a job to house people experiencing homelessness or at-risk-of-becoming homeless. David was terrified of having to return to the street with his beloved, aged cat, Joey.

I added David to my growing list of adopted family. David is incredibly verbal. Easily set off. Insecure. Nervous. He has a head injury and needs a lot of interaction and reassurance. Exactly what this busy woman has no time for.

I made time for David.

I reached out the Housing Authority. Rob Fredericks responded instantly and referred me to Eddie Capistrano, who is a rock star. He connected us to multiple housing options. Wait lists are common, but some had openings. Eddie applied for Section 8 units for David. He advised me to write a letter of introduction as David is a bit of a local celebrity, who provides a lot of service to the community.

Joey the cat was David’s foremost concern. We saw great sites for assisted living, but few would accept a cat, even an aged, placid one. Some were on the second floor, and David can’t do stairs. David uses a walker. He gets around, but as I drove him to appointments, I realized he was on the verge of needing to be in assisted living.

I worried a lot about David.

I learned David was so fearful for good reason. His landlord verbally abused him as a useless human on the public dole because he received Section 8. He was legitimately disabled, but she didn’t care. He’d been told he could never move because if he lost his Section 8 unit, it was impossible to find another (true!) David felt backed into a corner. Stay in this craptastic unit … or become homeless. Suddenly, homelessness was looking quite imminent.

David called me a couple of weeks ago, crying tears of joy. Terence Alemann, the new property owner, wanted to help him, and offered a unit uptown. It was expensive — $2,150 per month, with $2,350 deposit, plus $600 for the cat. Section 8 would cover much of the rent, so his rent payment of $300, out of his meager social security, would remain the same. We’d have to cover the rest plus moving, a high bar. Now we had to scramble.

I was annoyed a lot with David in this process. He was unable to submit applications online, so I did it. He needed funds for a deposit; I started a GoFundMe for him — his idea. I paid the deposit. He couldn’t do the required online pet screening where you list kitty’s every shot since birth, so I did it and paid the fee. David needed an executive assistant.

Luckily, David had another kickass woman on his team who did the real heavy lifting — Jessica Armstrong. She was his “caregiver,” but when I called her, I learned she was volunteering her time to help him. She found free furniture for his new place. She got a truck. She organized his move. We wanted his move-in moved up, because we both needed a break from dealing with this. She moved him in.

I love David.

But what about people that don’t have anyone willing to do the heavy lifting to help keep them housed? What happens to them?

I think we know. They become our newly unhoused. Homeless outreach workers also know this.

Kudos to:

– the Housing Authority, who tried so hard, and navigated us through the process to transfer his Section 8 to the new home.

– Terrence Aleman for David’s new home

– Sierra Property Management, who hustled to move the lease forward.

– the City of Santa Barbara for the 3 months relocation assistance ordinance. It helped David.

– Jessica Armstrong – my shero

– David, for love of Joey the cat.

Renoviction is real. The supply of low-rent homes here has been eviscerated, pushing low-income people out. They then face the Santa Barbara Tenant Beauty Pageant Scramble where you desperately try to convince a landlord that you will never make a noise, have no pets or kids, and can pay huge rent, deposits, and fees.

David continues to alert the community about emergencies on his Rodger Dodger Facebook page. He’s got a following and is pretty beloved in this community. His fans contributed to his GoFundMe for the deposit.

And it was still this hard.

What about others who get evicted, who don’t have David’s following and friends?

They’ll go to the streets.

We have to stop this.


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