Paul and his wife, Rion, didn’t expect to be homeless for their 40th wedding anniversary. It all began in 2011, when Rion was laid off from a law firm and Paul, a Vietnam veteran, was off work dealing with a medical condition. With Rion’s unemployment benefits just one-third of her former income, the household quickly burned through its savings just to make rent on their Palo Alto apartment. Financially exhausted just months later, they had no choice but to put their belongings in storage and move into their aging Jeep Comanche.
Over the next two years, Rion patched together temporary assignments, with long commutes from wherever someone agreed to let the couple park – and live out of – their truck. They bounced between friends’ driveways in Sonoma, Bodega Bay, and the Peninsula as Rion tried to work her way back into a permanent position. The couple’s debts accumulated: with no kitchen to prepare or store food, they had to rely on fast food or costly pre-cooked meals, plus they were covering the monthly fees for three different storage units. They also rented a hotel room whenever they could to escape the cold, small cab of their truck.
When Rion was finally offered a permanent position at a Redwood Shores firm, they thought their nightmare was over. Paul began rustling up community resources to help them obtain housing, yet he heard the same thing over and over: Rion’s new income disqualified them for aid, no matter how dire their situation. Though Paul tried to negotiate for an apartment close to Rion’s new job, but the household’s damaged credit was a major barrier. In desperation, Paul walked into a nonprofit called Samaritan House, where a caseworker helped him put together an application for HIF that demonstrated the he and Rion could pay a monthly rent, but their inability to cover the large move-in costs would undoubtedly keep them homeless. HIF approved the Paul and Rion for $1,000, and they moved into their new unit immediately.
Today, Paul and Rion are relishing their new one-bedroom, thrilled to be surrounded by their old possessions since rescued from storage. They also know more – perhaps more than anyone – how fortunate they are to have the security and privacy afforded to them by four walls.