Suzy’s Story 

Suzy lived a regular life.  She had a job, a car, and an apartment that she shared with her son. But after a medical event left her son with a traumatic brain injury and unable to work, it became harder to stay housed.   

Eventually, Suzy and her son became homeless.  “I’m from Petaluma, so I’ve always known about COTS” Suzy said, but it was a worker at Petaluma Health Center that encouraged the family to apply to COTS.  While her son began his journey to sobriety at COTS, Suzy hid her addiction to alcohol.    

Her alcoholism got the best of her, and Suzy had to leave COTS.  “I lived in a tent under an overpass for a month.  I was still drinking and was so dehydrated, I had hallucinations.  I had to go to the hospital. I was so sick and weak.”  Suzy was discharged and her son started bringing her the to-go meals COTS offers and eventually she started coming back to COTS for meals herself, applied to live at the COTS shelter again, and she made a commitment to sobriety. 

Suzy met our Head Chef, Janin, who listened to her story and encouraged Suzy to start volunteering in the kitchen.  That’s when things began to change.  Little by little, she regained her strength and sense of self.   

“They took care of me, I got stronger every day, so I could do more and more. And it became a family. And then it reached the point where I was doing it [volunteering] because I wanted to, not because it was air conditioned.  I was doing it because there’s such camaraderie in the kitchen. I had lost myself, and being here with people who care about you, and where you are giving back was, it changed my life. It allowed me a place to kind of heal and find myself. So, it’s a rescue story.” 

Today, Suzy is celebrating over three months of sobriety.  She credits the staff at COTS for making her feel supported and cared for.  When she’s not preparing food in the kitchen, she’s helping pass out dinner.  Suzy sees individuals she met while living in an encampment and encourages them to come inside.  She wants others to know that even when they aren’t sure about COTS, or when the journey back to housing feels insurmountable, that they should try.  “They’ve just forgotten that they can. Because I, I kind of did. I forgot that I could do all this. I can, even though I [was] lost. This says that it has nothing to do with my future. Again, I can set that aside and say from here, I can go forward.” 

Housing is Suzy’s next step, and she is hoping to stay in Petaluma so that she can continue to volunteer.  “I want be a core volunteer, that’s how much this place means to me.”   

COTS is so grateful to the staff who didn’t give up on Suzy and who are continuing to support her in her journey back to housing.  Thank you to the many supporters who made this work possible for Suzy and so many others.