written by Sonia, a volunteer with Consider The Homeless!
I met Sam (not his real name) on the steps of the veteran’s building in downtown Berkeley on one of our regular soup deliveries in early March. He had a white beard and kind blue eyes. His face was bruised and battered because he had been beaten and robbed earlier that week. He had just taken some cash out of an ATM and was pursued by an opportunistic young punk who easily overpowerd him and stole all his money. He was desperate to find an apartment for himself and his service dog.
He told me that he had a “shelter care voucher” from the City of Berkeley which would pay his rent for a year. He had to use the voucher within 60 days otherwise the City would take the voucher back and pass it onto the next person on the list. These vouchers are incredibly hard to get and once you have one it is like gold. You do not want to let it lapse.
Sam had been diligently applying for apartments all over the City but so far every landlord had turned him away because of his dog. Sam assured me that his dog was a service dog and he had the paper work to prove it but this did not seem to make any difference. Sam was adamant that where he went his dog went too. I took down Sam’s mobile phone number and I told him that I would make some phone calls for him.
As always life intervened and a couple of weeks slipped by before I could do anything on Sam’s behalf. Then one Thursday morning in late March I started calling various Berkeley City agencies and finally made contact with Sam’s case worker at the City of Berkeley Senior Services Agency. He very politely told me that he could not talk to me about Sam until Sam signed a release to say that it was okay…client confidentiality laws. This made sense but nevertheless it was a little frustrating. I called Sam back and told him what the status was. He said he would go in the next day and sign the release. I also made calls to Disability Rights California about the legality of refusing somebody a lease because he had a service dog. Again I was told that they could not talk to me on Sam’s behalf so I explained the problem and gave them Sam’s phone number.
A week went by and no calls and then last Friday Sam called to tell me that he was in an apartment! It was a nice 1BR with a large yard for his dog. He was very happy to finally have a roof over his head.
His case worker had worked some magic to get him in. He now has a year lease and his rent is covered. Of course he does not have a stick of furniture but that will come in time. The main thing is that he and his dog are now off the streets and that they have a new home.
I do not know how much if anything my phone calls had to to with this wonderful outcome. Maybe our contact brought Sam's troubles to the top of the pile… maybe not. We will never know for sure however, we at Homeless Lives Matter – Berkeley are thrilled for Sam and his dog.
Thank you to everyone who helped work this miracle! What a wonderful feeling this news invokes.
As we attract more volunteers and we gain experience and knowledge of these agencies and how these benefits work, we hope to have more success stories like this one to share with you.
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