Sonia Perez has lived and worked in Brooklyn for the last 20 years, selling tamales on the street near Maria Hernandez Park.

During that time the grandmother and single-mother of four has become a fierce advocate for other street vendors and a leader in her community.

Now, that community is coming to her support as she deals with a COVID-19 diagnosis and pending eviction.

Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project set up a Go Fund Me page for Perez on March 24, and in just two weeks it has already surpassed its goal of $10,000 – with $10,772 donated so far.

The page says Perez is a true community leader, “always helping other vendors and fighting for street vendor rights.”

“If you’ve ever walked down Knickerbocker on a sunny Saturday, you’ve likely run into her sharing news and the most delicious tamales of your life!!”

A Go Fund Me page for street vendor Sonia Perez has raised more than $10,000. Photo: Go Fund Me.

But since the pandemic hit, Perez has been out of work due to health complications that make it too dangerous for her to vend.

Unable to receive government relief and with the death of her children’s father – who financially supported the family, Perez has fallen behind on rent the past three months and her landlord is texting and calling her everyday threatening eviction, and electricity and gas bills are piling up, the page says. To make matters worse, Perez’s entire family has fallen ill with COVID-19.

But now, with the support of her community, she will be able to put more than $10,000 towards her rent, electricity and gas bills.

Sonia Perez sells tamales on Knickerbocker Ave. Photo: Go Fund Me.

Patch reports Perez is feeling “very happy, overwhelmed and appreciative,” over the money raised, especially to the Street Vendors Project.

“I really did not think we would reach the goal, but it is in times like these that you notice how much support exists from our comrades, our allies, and in our community.”

The Street Vendor Project is one of the organizations who has fought for the inclusion of “excluded workers” in government relief packages.

Just this week, the State Senate passed the $2.1 billion Fund for Excluded Workers, to help undocumented, self-employed, or formerly incarcerated New Yorkers get financial assistance to weather the pandemic.

“Essential workers never stopped working during the pandemic and kept the city and state running while putting their own lives and their families at risk,” the Legal Aid Society said of the passage of the fund.

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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