Barbara’s Story


In 2020, I had a home in Alaska that I had purchased myself, a good job, and a stable life. After seven years of living there, I decided to travel the country. I bought a beautiful car and a trailer, and flew across the U.S. to stay with friends who would always say, “I wish I could come and see you.”

During my travels, I met my partner (who I’m still somewhat with), and he joined me. We drove all over the country and explored.

One poor decision after another and we blew through a lot of the money I had saved. My partner and I both have substance abuse issues, and he ended up stealing my car and all my belongings, leaving me behind. Eventually I found out he and my car were in Santa Cruz, which is how I ended up here.

I soon found myself homeless, and, for a while, I lived down in San Lorenzo by myself. I actually used less drugs while living down there because I was so scared; I needed to know what was going on around me at all times.

I would go weeks without taking a shower or doing laundry. You have to find a way to get all the way out to River Street and leave all your stuff sitting in San Lorenzo. That’s a very vulnerable feeling, knowing that everything you own is in the tent in Lorenzo. Even going to the bathroom was risky. People stole my stuff constantly. On top of that, there’s rats everywhere. People yelling at all times of the night. And I would just lay there and be like, what is going on?

You just don’t think of taking a shower or doing laundry as a whole day thing, but with the walking and waiting, your day is gone. Sometimes you miss the hours, and then you waste an entire day and don’t even get it done. It is just a never-ending fight. Every single thing is a challenge. Keeping all of your basic needs met is a full time job … It’s exhausting.

Shelter was my number one priority. I thought, if I have that, then I can get these other things taken care of.

In 2022, I ended up connecting with a social worker while hospitalized, and they connected me with Homeless Persons Health Project and Housing Matters. Housing Matters said they had a spot for me to move in the next week. I was totally stoked. I’m finally in that right place where I can put in the work. I finally feel like I am in a stable place to get the help I need.

Living at Housing Matters has given me the break I need. I’m surrounded by people who also want to change their situation, and I feel safe here. It’s helped me a lot.

This story was collected in January 2023 by Andrea Feltz, Community Conversations Program Manager