A household of UC Berkeley students and alumni of Sigma Epsilon Omega, UC Berkeley’s only queer fraternity, launched a GoFundMe page Jan. 27 to help cover the household’s rent costs and monthly bills.
Sigma Epsilon Omega is based out of an “off-campus satellite house” that is normally rented out by 12 or more current and past members of the fraternity. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, residents typically used the bottom floor as a communal space for siblings and friends of the fraternity, according to Luca Giles, Sigma Epsilon Omega president. However, due to family obligations, as well as health and financial concerns brought on by the pandemic, the household has been having difficulty maintaining its capacity and is now only occupied by nine members.
“We created this GoFundMe because we’re reaching a critical point at which we as a household will not have enough savings to continue to supplement the rent we cannot afford,” Giles said in an email. “Every single member of this house has increased their personal rent to mitigate the debt we’ve collected, but continuously increasing rent while individuals struggle with personal finances is not a solution we’d be proud, or able, to accept.”
Many household members are experiencing job insecurity and financial issues at this time as well, the GoFundMe page states.
Giles added in the email that the house has been serving as a safe space for members of the organization and losing the house would be a “tragic loss” for UC Berkeley’s current and future queer community.
“My best memories of Berkeley are from my freshman year, coming to visit the house after classes, and feeling the love and freedom of entering a truly queer space,” Giles said in the email. “Places like this, made by queer people for the comfort and joy of queer people, are so rare and so life changing. We’re not going to lose our home so close to being able to return to it.”
The GoFundMe page is aiming to raise $12,000 — roughly one month’s worth of rent and approximately the amount household members are unable to pay over the course of the spring semester, Giles said in the email. In the first week of fundraising, the page raised nearly $5,000, they added.
In addition to covering rent costs, money raised will also be used to address issues with rodents, water leaks and the heating system the household has been experiencing in the last few months, according to the GoFundMe page.
Giles added that they are very grateful for all the contributions they have received thus far and are remaining optimistic about the household’s future.
“I hope when people see this fundraiser they know this is not an attempt to pay rent on a house, or support any specific individuals,” Giles said in the email. “It’s an effort to protect a space that has the potential to benefit the entire queer community in the years to come.”
One of the residents of Sigma Epsilon Omega is Olive Grimes, an arts reporter for The Daily Californian.