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by Marlene Sanchez
While advocates cheer a rise in San Francisco’s minimum wage rising to $15 an hour, the tough truth of the cost of living here, told firsthand, changes the citywide conversation. Renae Benavente, 27, illustrates the reality, working three jobs sprawled across seven days a week.
Since graduating from San Francisco State University in 2010 with a degree in art history, Benavente has been sleeping four or five hours a night “if I’m lucky,” she said. “But I’ve gotten used to it.”
Like most college graduates, she faces the stress of paying off student loans and finding a job simultaneously.
She juggles a full-time job at the Children’s Creativity Museum and two part-time jobs, one at Goldenvoice, a music entertainment company, and another at Noe Valley Bakery.
“I don’t really have a choice,” she said.
According to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a minimum wage worker in the Golden State would need to log 130 hours a week to rent a market-rate, two-bedroom home. That would leave 38 hours to eat, sleep, shop, cook, and lead a personal life.
San Francisco is a little above the curve with a minimum wage of $10.74 an hour, compared to the state’s $9 an hour. But, according to the same report, a person must earn nearly $30 an hour to afford a one-bedroom home in San Francisco. With hardships like these, San Franciscans are forced to make sacrifices.
Renae Benavente considers herself “lucky.” She pays $510 a month for her own room in a house in Ingleside. She lives with two roommates.
Besides her rent, Benavente pays about $1,200 in bills each month. This includes credit card, car insurance, phone and tax bills. She pays her taxes through a monthly payment plan since she can’t afford to pay it in full.
Maintaining a social life can be a tricky proposition given her schedule.
On late nights, she works the ticket booth at the Regency Ballroom, sometimes as late as 2 a.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays, she has to be up by 5 a.m. for the morning rush at her bakery job.
“I still like to go out with friends,” said Benavente. “I just have to miss out on sleep if do.”