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From sleeping in the car to a permanent home

Resident reveals the realities of family homelessness

Nancy is resting in her hotel in Sacramento after a full day of speaking with state lawmakers about California’s housing affordability crisis. Nancy’s life today is completely different than it was just one year ago.

Nancy became homeless with her two daughters, now ages 16 and 4, a couple of years ago when she lost her job. Nancy has also had major depression since she was a child. When they first became homeless the family rented rooms from strangers, but they were not safe. “So I opted for a safer environment in the car,” says Nancy.

Nancy describes the realities of living through homelessness with children, “We took all our stuff to storage. We spent a lot of time at the park. When it got dark we found what I thought was a safe place to sleep. In the mornings we’d wash up in the storage place’s bathroom. My oldest daughter’s grades and self-esteem were really affected.” Nancy tears up but continues, “So we decided to go to a shelter. I thought that would give me the opportunity to go back to school, and the kids would have somewhere to sleep. But being at the shelter was rough because we had to leave early every morning. My little one wasn’t in school and during the day she was hungry and tired, she wanted to go to sleep. I didn’t have anywhere to sleep except the car, but the car was hot, and there was no place to park during the day so no one would see us.”

Nancy and her older daughter were both experiencing stress-related health issues, and Nancy was hospitalized. A homeless outreach worker at the hospital helped Nancy fill out an application for permanent supportive housing, and CBH’s Burlington Family Apartments staff contacted Nancy a few months later.

“My girls were traumatized,” Nancy says, “but now that we have our own place, we’re in therapy. These past months my daughters’ spirits are different. If we didn’t have a stable place, we would not be thinking about a better future. Now I feel safe, which has helped with my mental health. I’m not constantly stressed, I don’t worry about where we’re going to be, what we’re going to eat, is someone going to do something to us. That peace of mind opens doors for me. Having a permanent home allows me to have hope, and through that hope, have goals to better our lives. I’m going back to school for respiratory therapy. I had lost sight of that for a few years, but now that we have our apartment, I’m able to pick up that goal. I just want to better everything for us. When you become homeless, living out of your car and the park, you have no sense of direction, no hope.”

Through her experience, Nancy has become a passionate and gifted advocate for more housing affordability and support services to help people with special needs stay in their homes. “I researched Clifford Beers before we moved into Burlington, because I needed to know what affordable housing is, who cares, and why,” Nancy says. Nancy feels that CBH understands that people who have experienced homelessness “are worth the time and effort to provide us with assistance. We need to be able to feel the same as others, and feel that we are equal. I love what Clifford Beers Housing stands for. I feel that their mission and philosophy is genuine, it’s out of compassion and the desire to help people like me who have disabilities. It’s amazing to be given the same opportunities as other people.”

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LeBA with his mural at BurlingtonCalifornia Community Foundation