Community Action Partnership OC offers relief as eviction moratorium ends

Newport Beach resident Martin Amoroz and CAP OC President and chief executive Gregory C. Scott.
Newport Beach resident Martin Amoroz and CAP OC President and Chief Executive Gregory C. Scott, from left, at the CAP company headquarters in Garden Grove.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Martin Amoroz counts his blessings.

Even when he was sick and unable to work, the 59-year-old Newport Beach resident was able to keep a roof over his head for his family. But that wasn’t a given.

Amoroz caught the coronavirus in July 2020 and was without a job and in bed for two months.

Amoroz, a finance manager by trade who holds an MBA, owns his own business that exports medical equipment to his native country of Mexico. He also does consulting on the side.

He’s been living in Newport Beach since his children were toddlers, but being out of work meant Amoroz was unable to pay the $3,000 rent for the three-bedroom apartment near Fashion Island that he lives in with his wife Teresa, 17-year-old daughter Faith and 15-year-old son Abraham. Faith and Abraham both attend Newport Christian School, while Teresa has a disability and is unable to work.

With the family running out of options, Amoroz’s wife called 211, and the operator connected her with Community Action Partnership Orange County (CAP OC). The nonprofit was able to provide him with two months of rent through CARES Act funding, the second coming after he finished CAP OC’s five-week financial empowerment program.

“It was such a relief,” Amoroz said. “I wasn’t making money, and the rent was piling up. We didn’t want the kids to be traumatized; they’re used to having a normal life. It gave me peace of mind.”

Help is out there. That’s the message that Gregory C. Scott, CAP OC president and chief executive, wants to send. The organization has stabilized more than 525 people through $567,000 in rental assistance this year alone.

Newport Beach resident Martin Amoroz at the Community Action Partner headquarters in Garden Grove.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

That message is especially pertinent now. California’s eviction ban ended, effective at the end of September. That left many renters owing thousands of dollars in back rent.

Residents have to come up with at least 25% of their rent covering the period between Sept. 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021, which can be paid in monthly installments or in one lump sum.

“I think on some level, people would be surprised that the moratorium had such a big impact,” Scott said.

“It’s Orange County. This is one of the richest counties in the country. But everybody was affected by it ... come Nov. 1, landlords have the right to take those individuals who cannot pay 25% of the rent that they’re owed to small claims court. [The moratorium] protected them from being evicted, but it didn’t erase their debt.

“It’s easy to identify those northern or western cities in the county, that we can identify that poor people probably live there. But there’s poor people who live in Newport Beach, who live in the coastal areas — Huntington Beach — who are also challenged by this moratorium.”

Scott, who has led CAP OC since January 2018, has a quote from Muhammad Ali on the white board in his office: “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

CAP OC has more programs, including a utility assistance program, that can help remove some of those pebbles.

“Ultimately, our mission is really about helping families and individuals who are dealing with poverty,” Scott said.

“We have a network of community partners across the county that address the root cause of the poverty. We try to look at ourselves in terms of two domains. One domain is, how do we help individuals who are dealing with crisis, meaning they have an immediate need?”

The organization runs the OC Food Bank at their Garden Grove headquarters. In 2019, Scott said that CAP OC gave out 24 million pounds of food. In 2020, when the need was greater because of the coronavirus pandemic, 65 million pounds of food were distributed.

Scott said CAP OC also has a hand in community development. It runs three family resource centers — in Anaheim, Santa Ana and Orange — that offer more long-term help.

Amoroz is optimistic for the future and grateful for the assistance that the nonprofit provided.

“Families need to see there is help to help them get back on their feet,” he said. “There is always a door that’s going to open, to improve whatever situation they have.”

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