Stories

Pauline’s Story

Hello, my name is Pauline and this is my story. 

I was in the benchlands for 3 months. I lost my home of 20 years in Santa Cruz because of domestic violence. I ended up in the benchlands with my partner who was violent to me. I came to Housing Matters with him and he got kicked out because of domestic violence. So I was left there by myself for 5 months in total on Coral Street.   

After many months of staying in the Loft program, I had until March 14th before my voucher was gonna expire. No more extensions. I’ve been on section 8 for 20 years and they’d already given me a 3 month extension prior.  So I had until March 14th. The pressure and time crunch of this was honestly unbearable. I started getting really depressed and just started giving up. 

One day, I had this weird urge to check the computer for new listings in town. Up until then, I had this apartment complex that was my favorite place for years, with no hope whatsoever. I’ve been looking for open listings and applying there for a long time. So, I logged on the computer and right at the top was a vacancy in that very apartment complex put up an hour before I got onto Craigslist.

So I jumped on it. I found my case manager and filled out an application right away. Since I jumped on it, I was the first applicant. So, I made an appointment for a showing but immediately I was like, why should I go? Why should I go? I’m just gonna get denied because of my credit score. I had been denied so many apartments it was hard to feel hopeful. But regardless, I picked myself up, all but dragged myself over there and I made it 10 minutes to spare.

Then I met Ella. Ella is an angel in this story. I handed her my paperwork, my section 8 voucher, and she just put it aside. I was like, yeah, there we go, that’s a definite no. I just assumed that’s what everybody’s been doing when I give them my paperwork. So we went up and took a look at the apartment.  And I just about melted. The lights are just fancy, it was brand new. Everything was beautiful. I said, there’s no way this can be section 8. In my head I was like, Ella, why are you getting my hopes up? Why are you doing this to me?

So she showed me around and we went down to the office and she goes, well, and she looks at the paperwork and then she starts filling it out. And I thought, wait, she’s filling the green paper out. Wait, wait. And then she goes, you know, I think I can get an inspection tomorrow and then we may be good to go. I said, wait, what? And she goes, “well see what I can do”. She didn’t give me an answer yet, but she started filing. 

So two days went by, I didn’t hear anything. 

All of a sudden, my case manager, Erica, and the Loft Program Manager, Jen, come pounding on my pallet door. 

“Pauline, are you home?”

I took a deep breath and said, “Oh, no. Yeah.”

They looked at me and didn’t say a word. I had already dropped my head down. 

She goes, “Pauline, we got some news to tell you.” And she was messing with me, her and Erica. 

I said, “what? I didn’t get it?”.

“You’re moving in on Tuesday!”, they both said.  

I said, “wait…”  This was on a Friday so it was a long, long weekend. 

An hour or two later, Erica is on Amazon ordering furniture and stuff for me. She goes, what color do you want, Pauline? 

And the amazing thing was, Ella had 3 more showings that day. I was the first showing and then she canceled all the other showings that day because I got it. But she didn’t tell me, she told Erica that she loved my personality and my determination.

While all this is going on, I have five days left of my voucher. I would’ve lost it completely. After those five days were up I would’ve had no chance to get a house again. I would’ve lost it all. 

I was still in disbelief. Ella handed me the keys. I sat in the chair and she got in front of me. We looked into eachothers eyes and then she started crying and then we both hugged each other and we bawled our eyes out. Ella is the one who gave me this apartment. She is crying with me. It was so powerful. 

So I floated up those stairs. Still crying, we are all still crying. I take my shoes off and I slide across the wooden floor, like in risky business.. And I spun around on the hardwood floor in my socks. And I was just sliding all over the floor, playing with the washer and dryer. The washer and dryer play Beethoven when it’s done, can you believe that? My fridge has a water dispenser. I went from having to plan my day around protecting all my belongings and also finding water for myself to having a water dispenser? I worked hard for this place but wow, what a gift. 

I’d been to numerous showings at this point. I got denied because, you know, I couldn’t get there when they wanted me to, or my credit score was too low. I did a lot of the search on my own and would always come back sad. It just tore me down. 

And then all of a sudden, two days and 19 Amazon boxes later I was in an apartment that was mine. 

I slept on the floor for the first couple nights waiting for my furniture to arrive. But once things arrived I started having some fun. I got my internet hooked up, bought a TV and started making this apartment my home. 

I wanted purple for the bedroom, purple for the bathroom. Everything purple. And the kitchen’s blue and white. I love cheerful colors and want this space to feel happy. 

I was housed during a lot of the rain in the winter of 2023. I  was sitting on my back porch watching. I noticed I didn’t like the feeling of being outside and for the first time in what felt like forever, I had the choice to go inside and watch the rain come down. I was on the inside looking out. And I’m like, I’m not out there any more. I’m not out there any more.

I lost my apartment of 20 years because of domestic violence. I was depressed and scared to be alone. My daughter went off to college after 20 years and I was left with a very violent man. It didn’t matter that I had lived in a home here for 20 years with no evictions on my record, no criminal record. I was on both sides of the fence, resident of 20 years right into the benchlands and into the shelter and back into housing again. 

I lost 21 years of sobriety during this time while experiencing extreme violence. The cops just kept blaming it on me and turning their backs. I’m sober now and active in NA. 

Housing Matters protected me from that violence when I couldn’t protect myself. While I was in the Loft I was dealing with a lot of personal stuff. NA meetings and working with a counselor to stay off the pills because I wouldn’t let that escalate into anything else. I’ve been off cocaine for 21 years. I was also working with a domestic violence counselor because my safety was threatened. At points it became hard to prioritize looking for housing on top of all that. That’s what happens though. Life when you’re homeless is consuming. It’s hard to look at all our trauma all at once. 

But now that I have my home, I can keep working on it. One day at a time. I have support established and am not using any substance at all. I feel so blessed. I’m enjoying it. I’m soaking in the bathtub every night, full of bubbles. I paint my toenails pink and watch my toes wiggle out of the bubbles in the tub. 

Housing Matters really came through for me. There are resources here for those who are ready to work with them. It takes a lot of will, but if you take advantage of it and are ready to be helped, then it’s possible. I am an example of that. 

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