We would like to introduce you to some extraordinary women who have defied the odds and have secured housing and income.
Mary’s lost her housing after an illness that put her on disability. Although she received some help from her sister and a friend, it was not enough to help stop her from becoming homeless. Close to homelessness, the fear was overwhelming and she had thoughts of suicide. Once homeless, she stopped eating regularly and didn’t care whether she lived or died. One morning Mary ran into a woman whose circumstances were somewhat similar who told her about The Living Room where she was going herself. Mary went that day arriving just before closing time when lunch was no longer being served. Nevertheless, she was quickly given a piece of cake with a glass of milk. Although it tasted delicious, it was the “love” with which she was served that made a profound impact on her. Also, the two staff members she met that day made themselves available to chat right away. From then on, Mary came to The Living Room nearly every day to a comfortable room, helpful upbeat staff and volunteers, and delicious and nutritious food. At The Living Room, she learned about local resources available and began to pursue leads in earnest, and eating meals regularly made her feel better physically.
Two years later, Mary wrote a letter describing her experience at The Living Room as the “life raft” she needed. Getting back on her feet was a gradual process, with many setbacks. However, she said the impact of The Living Room on her life gave her the support she needed during a time of crisis, and if she had stayed homeless, she probably would either be dead or hopelessly in a “Black Hole” with no way out. She proudly stated she now had a lovely roof over her head for reasonable rent, was working full-time, and seriously contemplating pursuing a Teaching Credential. The end of Mary’s letter read, “I thank God every single day for the existence of a place called The Living Room.”
Jane became homeless at 50 years old after living in a comfortable condo in Cloverdale and financially secure. A series of events, including respiratory illness and needing to move, exhausted Jane's financial resources resulting homelessness. She found peace, comfort, and help in the supportive systems around her, which included daily visits to The Living Room. For 6 years, Jane relied on our safe environment, healthy meals, mailing address (PO Box), telephone and voicemail, and assistance and encouragement to submit applications for housing. Jane was also diabetic, and frequently relied on our healthy meals to stabilize her diabetes. She was referred to various medical supports whenever necessary. Due to her fluctuating health, she had difficulty maintaining long term employment as a caregiver. Due to her age, she was still ineligible to receive social security. She participated fully at The Living Room, not only by utilizing the available support, but by offering support to other women and assisting in daily chores. Jane finally was accepted into an apartment, began receiving regular income through Social Security, and received help in furnishing her home by donations that came through The Living Room.
Sutter Hospital residents come regularly to The Living Room to offer medical information, answer questions, assist in access to medical supports, and basic screening to women and children. It was a Friday when Dr. Joe visited and met with a client, Betty, and her 1 year old daughter, Kristy. Dr. Joe noticed right away that Kristy was delayed developmentally because she was unable to sit up on her own nor hold her head up for very long. Dr. Joe contacted his colleagues at Sutter, and arranged for an appointment for neurological testing for Kristy the very next day. Dr. Joe also educated Betty with great compassion and kindness on how to navigate the systems of care at Sutter that she would be accessing for her daughter.
Anne had suffered from mental illness for many years, and had good days and bad days. On one of her bad days, Anne came to The Living Room, and – because of her heightened anxiety, was unable to be in the room with the other women. Staff was able to offer Anne individual support to help decrease her anxiety. On this day, Tina, a psychiatric nurse who visited The Living Room twice weekly, was present and able to talk with Anne further and determined she needed to visit Psychiatric Emergency Services. Tina was also able to comfort Anne and describe what the process would be like when entering PES. Police were called to transport Anne to PES. They were very compassionate and explained they were taking her to get the help she needed. Anne was able to safely access needed Mental Health supports offered to her. Before she left she expressed her appreciation for The Living Room's intervention.
From the outside, Jean was enjoying a good life: A wonderful condo in Cloverdale with all the amenities. She had security and housing, but wondered to herself, “Is this all there is to life?” Unfortunately for Jean, a series of events, including moving and respiratory illness, exhausted her financial resources, and led her down a path to homelessness.
Jean had the loving support of her church in Sonoma County, that helped to place her belongings into storage and Jean into a shelter. Jean was especially distraught because she had to have her beloved cat euthanized; she could not afford the cancer treatments that would have extended his life.
Jean found great peace and comfort in the supportive systems surrounding her. Her church and The Living Room helped Jean find her way back economic stability, but Jean spent over six years on this journey.
Jean sent the following note to The Living Room: “I have been blessed to have had over 6 years of safety, warmth and caring kindness bestowed upon me. I feel very fortunate indeed in knowing that each woman I have encountered – each staff member and volunteer – has helped me along this journey. I was encouraged by a former staff member, Arlene, to send in one more application – one more time – persevering until I finally succeeded in finding housing. And, what a blessing it was to be accepted, to be guided, to be listened to when no one else was listening. I see the world differently now; I shine on the inside and it shows on the outside…Life is Good!”
"The Living Room is a place to be...a place to rest...a place to find help, support, hope and peace." Yamila is a classical concert pianist who graduated from the Pablo Casals Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico and the Peabody Institute of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. She has played and directed musical theater in Sonoma County for the Santa Rosa Players, Sonoma State University Pre-College Programs, Sonoma Community Center, and Mendocino College.
Yamila lost her source of income, her mortgage payments escalated to a financial breaking point, and she lost her home resulting in a foreclosure. She and her two children were suddenly homeless. With her belongings and beloved piano in storage, she sought the services of local shelters, friends, and The Living Room. In 2009, Yamila performed in a benefit concert with two other local musicians to help raise money for The Living Room.
Dayeana is a young, single parent with three boys. She had her first baby when she was 15, and relied on family and friends to help her make it. Two years ago, she ran out of support and had to move her family into an emergency shelter. She says, “It was a long, hard struggle and I just couldn’t make it on my own anymore.” Dayeana is a practiced survivor, though, having experienced a harsh childhood of domestic violence and child abuse. At the shelter she did her chores, followed the rules, and made a point to get along with everyone. It worked. She was well liked by the women and children around her. The culmination of her hard work came about in October of 2008 when she received a Section 8 government voucher for subsidized housing, making it possible for her family to move from the shelter into a low-income home. She also knows exactly what she wants to do. Her dream is to return to school and study for a career in a helping field, like nursing. She says she has learned a lot about herself. She is a stronger person, and is thankful for The Living Room staff who supported her and helped her make it through the tough times.