Susan’s Safe Landing

It is easy for many of us to take for granted the security of a stable roof over our heads. That security is often the first step towards making change in many of our clients’ lives. Last summer, our client Susan took that step.

As with many of our clients, we first learned of Susan’s situation through Contra Costa County’s Coordinated Entry System (CES). The system ensures that all people experiencing a housing crisis have access to available resources and prioritizes limited resources for the most vulnerable.

Our service managers, Michele Eklund and John Gallagher, met Susan on a street in Richmond along with members of the county’s Coordinated Outreach, Referral, Engagement (C.O.R.E.) team. 

Susan in her new home

“Michele literally did the client intake interview with the paperwork on the hood of a county C.O.R.E. team jeep—me trying to help hold down Michele’s papers in the wind,” said John Gallagher. 

“When I first went out on the street, it felt liberating and strong to be out of the situation,” said Susan, “but I went out in the middle of the pandemic with nothing but the clothes on my back. I didn’t have my social security card yet and their offices were closed, so I couldn’t get housing.”

Susan lived in a shelter for several months and found work restoring a van. Her spot in the shelter was temporary and meant that she needed to move locations, so she had to give up her work. She lost the spot in the shelter and the few belongings she had gathered and ended up living in a van. It was at that van where the C.O.R.E. team connected with Susan to provide support.

Once the Hope Solutions team gathered all the needed information, they were able to find Susan a new home—a two bedroom apartment with a roommate and a room that was all her own.

Susan had been living on the street, in and out of shelters for several years. She had left everything from her previous life behind as she fled from a situation of domestic violence. Susan’s story is common; 20% of those seeking crisis services in Contra Costa County reported surviving domestic violence. 

Susan and Hope Solutions Services Manager, John Gallagher

John and Amber Griffin, one of Hope Solutions’ compassionate property managers, met Susan to collect her few things from the van she had been living in.

“What a humbling experience,” said John, “we got her moved into the apartment that morning and I remember the enormous smile on her face when Amber handed her the key.”

Now that she is home, Susan can reconnect with some of her passions. She loves to fish and has fished many of the Bay Area shorelines. She also loves riding the bike that John was able to find for her. While Susan chatted with us for this profile, John spent time checking the bike. It’s a small example of how Hope Solutions case managers provide all types of help to our clients.

“I love my bike, says Susan. “I go everywhere on it. I put my grocery bags on each handlebar and off I go.”

An avid writer, Susan is also beginning to write in her journals again. She writes poetry and one of her poems was recognized in an international poetry contest. She graciously agreed to share her poem of hope with us.

Susan is now settling into her new surroundings. “It’s hard to get used to the security. I feel altered by this experience, and I just want to get normal again. I still have a lot of medical issues that I want to attend to, but now I feel like I have hope.”

Susan's Poem:

If you wait or hesitate,
Your life may manifest a fate; Begot of not of thoughts so thin;
Where circles dwell, and ends begin.

1. Contra Costa County, Health, Housing, and Homeless Services 2021 Annual Report.