The beginning of the pandemic felt like a sprint to Francisca Vazquez. That's when she and her household of five at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto found themselves scrambling to come up with a month's rent in April.
Now a year into the public health crisis, Vazquez — like so many others still struggling with the consequences of the pandemic — tells of a seemingly endless marathon for survival, and a life that has largely been put on hold.
"We are barely recovering," Vazquez, 25, said in a recent interview.
Vazquez has spent the past year mostly tending to her family, which includes her now 1-year-old little brother, Jorge Amir De La Luz. She's also picked up gigwork, as so many have during the pandemic, making deliveries through apps such as DoorDash, UberEats and Instacart.
Her mom, Ryena, was a floral designer who lost her job after her employer, a flower shop, shut down. She recently started selling "a bit of everything" at a flea market, including clothes and children's toys, which required her to invest her own money just to get started.
These choices weren't driven out of some entrepreneurial spirit with the hopes of growing a flourishing business or making a lucrative living through delivery apps — they were one of many tactical decisions Vazquez said her family made to just get by.
"That's what we use to make ends meet when we have tough times," she said.
Vazquez's household at the Buena Mobile Vista Home Park, where she has lived for over a decade, includes her mom, her stepfather, two younger siblings, one of whom is in college, and her boyfriend who recently became her fiance and is also helping the household through delivery-app work.
Her stepfather was a chef contracted by Google prior to the pandemic. Since the offices closed, Vazquez said, the company has sent checks that have somewhat helped to sustain the family. But around last week, according to Vazquez, all the contracted chefs at Google were given a 60-day notice that their contract would not be renewed and that they would be let go.
So far, her family has received zero help from federal government aid. Vazquez and a few others in her family are some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who were left out of the two stimulus packages passed in 2020.
While millions of Americans have received COVID-19 relief, Vazquez and her family have been left behind to fend for themselves.
"At the moment, when this hit and they talked about all this government help, we knew we were not gonna qualify at all," Vazquez said. "We just had to see how we could make it through without the help that everybody else was getting."
The closest her family has gotten to a stimulus check so far was $500 from Sacred Heart Community Service — a resource Vazquez said her family only heard about through a Latin radio station.
To add to the financial instability, there's now another challenge: Vazquez and her family have recently been left with no choice but to move out of Palo Alto, a city she has lived in for most of her life.
Owing to a complicated ownership situation at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, Vazquez said her mobile home unit is one of around 11 on the property the owners of the park are trying to get rid of. Her options were either to live in a smaller unit within the park or be paid to relocate entirely. Vazquez went with the latter.
With such short notice of the move, Vazquez said her family will not be able to purchase a new mobile home elsewhere. Instead, for the next few years, Vazquez and her family will rent another mobile home in Sunnyvale.
For Vazquez, what's helped the most throughout the past year hasn't been the small checks or the news of a vaccine — though it certainly helps her feel that there will be an end to the pandemic — but rather familial support.
"We're actually really family-oriented," she said. "Throughout this whole time, we actually had each other so that's what really helped all of us."
Vazquez is happy to report that no one in her family was infected with the coronavirus.
With her fiance, she hopes that she will start talking about a new family when things become more stable.
"It's a little weird how everything happened," she said, "But it's become a new normal."