Success after struggle: Formerly homeless people in western Nevada County find stability with shelter
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories on homeless people and the agencies, organizations and resources available to assist them in western Nevada County.
Tanya Joy was a home and business owner, raising two kids as a single mom in Dutch Flat.
Her hospice care business included nine employees, she said, helping Alzheimer’s patients.
“It was really rewarding,” she said.
But in 2011 things began to change. She underwent back surgery and, restrained to her hospital bed, she would frequently run business meetings in that space.
Later that year, she could no longer afford her home and began downsizing. Her medical problems were growing worse, even though doctors were ignoring her, she said. She eventually closed her business.
“It was kind of traumatic,” she said.
In 2013 Joy was rushed into a second surgery, and then transferred to outpatient care at University of California, Davis. Her kids went to live with family friends, but after months under medical care, she couldn’t sustain things.
“My life started to dissolve financially,” she said.
Geographical separation was one of her biggest concerns. Her friends and family members were all up the hill, far from where she was receiving treatment.
Six days per week in outpatient care and confined to a wheelchair, Joy said she had nowhere to go.
“The shelters were scary,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of violations by supposedly good people.”
Forced to live on the hospital’s campus because of her daily physical therapy regimen, Joy got help from churches, the Salvation Army and an occupational therapist, but nothing was ever stable.
She found herself homeless. Sometimes friends let her stay at their place.
“It changed my eyes on the fact that I think people are really scared to broach the subject because it could be them,” she said, later adding, “None of us are immune to it.”
COPING WITH INSTABILITY
Disabled and on Social Security at a young age, one social services worker said if Joy were a drug addict or elderly, they could help her. But she didn’t qualify for those opportunities. Joy, by all signs, didn’t fit the stereotype. Instead she appeared competent and lacking mental illness or addiction.
Moving through the days, she said she’d watch as homelessness turned people to drugs or alcohol to cope with their lack of stability.
“To stay up all night they use meth because their stuff gets robbed if they sleep,” she said.
To be closer with friends and her brother, she moved to Nevada County, using various social platforms and talking with local nonprofits like the FREED Center for Independent Living to acquire a room.
After taking a marketing job she could work remotely, Joy officially moved to Nevada County in 2018. An ex-boyfriend of hers, she said, allowed her to stay in the area before finding a place in Nevada City.
Joy said her disappointment in the lack of support from surrounding systems to help people before and after they experience homelessness developed into anger over time.
She had paid her taxes, she said, owned a home, ran a business, but eventually still became desperate for shelter when times turned tough.
“Even though I don’t stay mad,” she said. “I’m mad as hell inside.”
RESILIENCE THROUGH CHANGE
Nancy Moore was raised on the East Coast and moved to Nevada before moving to Nevada County in 2006. Her kids had moved out of the house, and she took an interest in the art and dance scenes of northern California.
“These are some really conscious, well-grounded, caring, compassionate people — plus I loved to dance,” she said.
A registered nurse, she found work in Nevada County and the Bay Area, and found housing after connecting with someone she could trust. She worked in hospice, and enjoyed helping her patients.
“I loved hearing their stories,” she said. “That was one of my favorite parts.”
But issues with mental illness became too difficult to navigate at work. Her life grew unstable. She couch surfed, house sat and did all she could to keep a roof over her head, but a surgery she had to rid her of a tumor (a false alarm) “blew it all apart,” she said.
Not being able to work and needing care, she moved back to the East Coast, where she grew up, for family support.
Government agencies helped her stay afloat. She became a part of an outpatient care program.
“You learn how to rethink things,” she said, “how to deal with things that come up.”
She obtained Social Security and disability support and said she came to learn a hard lesson that everything — all emotions and thoughts — rise just as they crumble away.
Feeling better, Moore said she returned to Nevada County in 2016. But there was still struggle.
She immediately got onto a wait list to receive a Section 8 voucher. Then she did her homework.
‘WASN’T EASY … BUT STAYED WITH IT’
Moore talked with realtors and connected with other voucher recipients to better navigate the Section 8 support system.
After years of waiting, she received a voucher last spring and during the week before Easter she found housing in Grass Valley.
“It’s the first time I have my own place,” she said. “I’m not on the sofa. I’m not at someone else’s house renting a room.”
Moore sees her home as an extension of herself. It’s added confidence to her life, she said.
She has a garden, and is considering a return to nursing.
Today, she works a few hours per week with the elderly community, singing and connecting with them.
“It helps them access places in their brain they can’t access,” she said.
Moore still has concerns. She said she worries about her car breaking down or receiving a high dentist payment (as happened recently).
But she acknowledges how her situation improved because of the roof now over her head.
“I’m really grateful for my house,” she said. “I’m grateful for Section 8. I’m grateful for all the help they provided me. It wasn’t an easy experience, but I stayed with it, and that’s my advice to anybody else out there.”
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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