Aleaya, 9, and Destiny, 4, excitedly ran from room to room of a house in downtown Sonora on Thursday and talked about what it would be like to live there.
“Oh my gosh,” Aleaya said while looking out the front window at the residential hillsides east of downtown Sonora. “We can see a big huge view!”
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Destiny remarked.
Their grandmother, Nancy Rogerson, said she felt a true sense of hope for the first time in over a year while touring the house that the owner wants to rent to her at a price she can afford.
Rogerson, 66, and her granddaughters have been homeless for one year and 29 days now after losing the trailer they were living in off Rough and Ready Trail. She received full guardianship of the girls in October.
Renee Paulsen contacted Rogerson on Thursday to offer her a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home on East Jackson Street for $600 a month, though she will need to come up with $1,200 for first and last month’s rent before she can move in.
Paulsen, 77, said the home was built in 1953 by the mother of her late husband, Don, a 25-year member of the Sonora Planning Commission whose family owned a jewelry store in town from 1903 to 1998.
“I told Renee that the girls and I were just ecstatic,” Rogerson said. “It’s perfect for us.”
Rogerson called a representative at Tuolumne County Social Services on Friday to get a referral for assistance on the first month’s rent and deposit through the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency.
Representatives from ATCAA and Social Services must first conduct an inspection of the home to make sure it meets the guidelines for the assistance program, though the earliest that can occur is Monday because ATCAA is closed on Fridays.
“I just feel nervous,” Rogerson said. “We’ve been trying so hard and waiting so long, I’m just nervous, but I think everything in there is going to be OK.”
Rogerson has struggled to find a decent place for them to live because of an ever-tightening rental market in a county that lacks enough affordable and subsidized housing to meet the need.
The family has mostly stayed at the Sonora Gold Lodge on Stockton Road while Rogerson searches for a permanent home thanks to the help of strangers, friends and Rogerson’s savings to cover the $630 weekly cost for a room.
Just hours before they were about to be on the streets this week, an anonymous donor came forward to cover the family’s room fees at the motel for an additional week. They now have until Wednesday because Rogerson has nearly depleted her savings and monthly government assistance after paying for several weeks on her own.
“I’m so grateful for them to keep myself and granddaughters off the street,” Rogerson said of those who have helped her. “It was outstanding that they had a kind heart.”
However, now it all depends on how soon ATCAA and social services can complete the needed inspection and whether Rogerson is approved for the housing assistance to get her into the place.
Rogerson said she’s certain that she can cover the rent and utilities on her own moving forward with the amount of money she receives each month from Supplemental Security Income, cash aid and food stamps.
The family was led on a tour of the home Thursday afternoon by Josef Stoiber, a friend of Paulsen’s who has been taking care of her since several surgeries impeded her mobility.
Stoiber said he broke his back while skiing years ago and Paulsen came to his aid, so he’s returning the favor by taking care of her.
Rogerson and her granddaughters will also be allowed to keep their three dogs, two of which the girls have had essentially for their entire lives.
The only thing that Paulsen will require is that Rogerson keep up the landscaping on the half-acre property.
Paulsen and her late husband are well known in the community for their public service prior to his death in 2006. Both of them have been honorary town marshals in the Mother Lode Roundup, a tradition she helped to launch in 2000 with a group of Sonora business owners.
Paulsen said that she read about the Rogerson’s struggle to find permanent housing in The Union Democrat and wanted to help, in part because of the close relationship she had with her own grandparents.
“The first thing that hit me was that I lived with my grandmother a lot when I was young,” she said. “When I read the article, I had tears because I thought how this day and age is so different and circumstances are entirely different.”
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.