After nearly two months of searching for a permanent home, Nancy Rogerson will be back on the streets tonight with her granddaughters, ages 4 and 9, and their three dogs.
The 66-year-old keeps track of how long they’ve been homeless — one year and 26 days to be exact.
They’ve spent most of that time staying at the Sonora Gold Lodge on Stockton Road, with the exception of four nights spent sleeping in her Dodge pickup behind PetSmart on Sanguinetti Road in early February.
Rogerson has filled out applications for subsidized housing, scoured ads in the newspaper, called real estate agents, worked with local housing advocates, and left notes on vacant homes, but all to no avail.
Several people came together to donate more than $2,500 for an additional month’s rent at the motel after reading about Rogerson’s plight in The Union Democrat, but she must be out of the room by 11 a.m. today because she can no longer afford the $630-per-week in rent on her fixed income.
“I just want a place to raise my grandkids so they can have a good life,” she lamented on Tuesday. “I’m begging for help. Do you have a place that’s open? I’ll clean it, or whatever I have to do.”
Rogerson has been taking care of her granddaughters for more than a year and gained custody of them in October.
She said it hurts when they’ve recently asked if they’re going to have to sleep in the truck again.
“I’m trying to keep my promise to the girls and tell them I’ll do the best I can,” Rogerson said. “I want something where my girls and I are safe and don’t have to worry anymore.”
Each month, Rogerson collects $910 in Supplemental Security Income, $627 in cash aid, and $249 in food stamps.
She also pays $44 a month for minimum-required insurance on her truck and $140 a month to rent a storage unit for her and her granddaughters’ belongings from their previous home.
The amount Rogerson receives in food stamps was reduced from $315 on April 1 because she was told that they were aware she had received assistance with her rent, likely through the articles in The Union Democrat.
Rogerson suffers from chronic neck pain and deterioration of her spine from earlier car accidents, among other physical ailments that she says hold her back from getting a job that would require her to work mostly on her feet for extended periods of time.
“You might as well kiss my butt goodbye because I couldn’t make it,” she said.
If she could have any job she wished, Rogerson said she would like to do something that helps at-risk children because she overcame a rough upbringing that included fending for herself while homeless on the streets of San Francisco at age 17.
The difficulties Rogerson faced while she was growing up is one of the reasons she says she stays dedicated to providing a good, stable life for her granddaughters.
They are unable to stay at either of the two homeless shelters in Tuolumne County because neither of them will let them bring their three dogs, a medium-sized Queensland heeler-border collie mix and two Chihuahuas.
The dogs are one reason that Rogerson has had difficulty finding a place because some have said they don’t accept pets, but she doesn’t want to get rid of them because the girls are attached to the Chihuahuas that they’ve had since Aleaya was 3 and before Destiny was born.
Other roadblocks Rogerson has faced include lengthy wait lists at all of the subsidized housing complexes in the county and a lack of enough income to afford rents that have skyrocketed in recent years.
Tamara Dockstader, housing resources director for the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency, said the organization receives a grant to provide “rapid re-housing” assistance that covers an eligible person’s deposit and first month’s rent.
The grant, however, requires the agency to develop a sustainability plan to ensure the person who receives the assistance will have enough income to continue paying the rent beyond the first month.
Dockstader said Rogerson’s case is particularly difficult because she doesn’t have enough income for most non-subsidized rentals.
Many of the one bedroom, nonsubized apartments that Rogerson has checked go for about $900 or more per month, including one in Tuttletown that she said was charging $975 a month.
Rogerson’s last hope Tuesday was a possible opening for a two-bedroom she heard about at Columbia Village Townhomes, which has 80 subsidized low-income housing units at 112999 Columbia Village Drive.
However, there were about 50 other applications on the waiting list Tuesday.
Aaron Ochs, the manager of Columbia Village Townhomes over the past year, said he would pass along her application to the incoming manager because his last day on the job will be Friday.
Rogerson said she submitted applications to a former manager, whose name she couldn’t recall Tuesday, prior to Ochs taking over a year ago.
Ochs confirmed she has called to inquire about openings several times over the past year, but he said they didn’t have a submitted application from her on file before Tuesday. He said it’s possible her previous applications could have been misplaced due to changes in management.
“Unfortunately, management changes every few years,” Ochs said. “When management changes, sometimes things get misplaced.”
Ochs said Apartment Corp currently manages the town homes, in addition to the Forest View Senior Apartments in East Sonora and Oak Hills Apartments in Jamestown. He added that the ownership of the properties changed hands last year, though he didn’t know the name of the new owner.
All three of the properties, all of which are subsidized, had no vacancies and waiting lists of up to two years each as of Tuesday.
To be eligible, tenants must meet certain income requirements, have a credit score of 500 or higher, and no felony convictions.
Tammy Davis, supervisor of the three properties, said a single person can’t make more than $18,600 a year for a 40-percent rent subsidy. Their monthly income also must be at least double the rent, which is $522 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.
“We as managers have issues with that because if it’s a couple who both work on minimum wage, that makes them over the limit,” Davis said. “We need to adjust this so we can help more people.”
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.