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I wrote about Jo Ann six months ago (“Hope on the horizon,” June 2, 2022). At that time, she was living in her RV with her canine companion, Mouse. She had to move her RV every 3-4 days and was constantly worried about being attacked or her things being stolen. She carried bear spray, pepper spray and a knife to protect herself. She has chronic back pain and uses a walker. She subsisted on her disability income and a little from selling her sketches and handicraft art work. However, hope emerged when cousin Tina reconnected with her and located her three children with whom she had lost contact during the last 10 years.
She was prioritized for housing because of her age (63) and disability. Shortly after I talked with her, she moved to the Garden View Village, a tiny home community at Woburn and Lakeway in Bellingham. She managed to store her RV on her cousin’s property. She has not decided what to do with it yet, since she still has dreams of traveling to places where she can gather interesting rocks and shells. The van she had been towing no longer started. After $1,200 for parts and labor, she gave up on her van. Fortunately, a friend gave her an old car that still ran.
Initially, she was wary of the fence around the perimeter of Garden View which reminded her of the prison where she had spent 13 years. Her fears were relieved when she realized that she could come and go as she liked. She was also put at ease after encountering several people she had befriended on the streets. She no longer worries about being attacked or robbed. Because she had been evicted from a senior low-income housing building for failing to follow rules, she had been concerned that she might again have difficulty with following rules at the village. Fortunately, there are only a few basic rules there. She has been written up once for forgetting to do her one weekly voluntary chore. Other than that, it has been smooth sailing. She feels quite comfortable.
She showed me around the village: her tiny home, the kitchen and common room, the laundry, the shower room, a computer room, a craft room and a smoking pavilion. She is still drawing and creating craft items but has not sold any since moving. Goodwill Industries has given her a computer and she is working toward finally completing her GED through Goodwill.
She will have supplemental health insurance starting in January that will pay for dental implants, something she had been wanting to do for many years but could not afford. The standard twin bed mattress in the tiny house was too hard for her to sleep without pain. From another friend, she acquired a beanbag sofa which now comfortably serves as her bed. She had contracted COVID in September and was sick for a month, although did not require hospitalization. After recovering, she continued to have a lingering cough for another month and still feels somewhat weak. While she was ill, her son came by to visit. She and her son keep in contact. However, her two daughters are estranged from her, although her cousin keeps her informed about how they are doing.
Before leaving, I talked with Sue, the Garden View manager, about how Jo Ann was doing. Jo Ann was fitting in nicely. However, she noted that Jo Ann had become depressed and withdrawn during the anniversary of the murder of her cherished grandson that she had been raising.
Tiny home villages are meant to be temporary with the goal of permanent housing within six months, although some have had to stay longer before being placed. Jo Ann has applied for permanent housing and is in a lottery for Section 8 housing.
—Contributed by John Dunne
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