Jane* was a lively spirit on a path full of success until her world was turned upside down. Like so many others, the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic marked the start of a tumultuous next few years. Jane owned her own business, a successful massage therapy studio that was established in Petaluma almost two decades ago. However, the pandemic brought a drastic decrease in clientele and, after sustaining an injury to her wrist, she had to close her doors permanently.  

As Jane approached her mid 70’s in age, she was without a sustainable income, as social security did not cover the cost of living. Luckily, Jane had savings she could tap into and for the next five years, she continued living in her home and prepared herself for what was to come next. 

Jane knew she would eventually be forced to leave her home due to finances once her savings were depleted and moved her belongings into storage as she tried to wrangle applications for affordable housing options herself. With no background on the process, Jane was greeted with legal jargon and an insurmountable amount of paperwork. This was not going to be a quick process. 

With an overwhelming feeling of panic and terror, Jane started to starve herself and her body weight fell to 75 pounds. Jane was slipping into a state of needing more care than her general doctor could provide her with but could not find the energy to care for herself any longer. 

She was still racing against the clock of her savings running out and Jane tried to pursue all available options but could not cross the finish line to secure herself stable, affordable housing. She was forced out of her home and onto the streets of the Petaluma community she had long been an integral piece of. 

With no other solutions, Jane called a shelter she knew was in Petaluma, COTS. Soon after speaking to a “kind” individual on the phone about the waiting list for a bottom bunk placement in the shelter at the Mary Isaak Center, Jane saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Partnering with Eileen from the Red Tape Club, she filed her application to stay at COTS and was placed in COTS’ People’s Village. “So, I feel this place [COTS] is a blessing to me. I’ve said that twice to you and I do I feel was a blessing.” Jane remained in People’s Village for 13 months, taking advantage of every single resource available to her.  

One resource was access to meals from Mary’s Table at COTS. When she was living in her home, she loved eating the premade salads from Trader Joe’s and was ecstatic when she found that COTS provided deliciously similar salads. 

Jane’s other key resource was again Eileen, in the Red Tape Club. Eileen helped her complete the paperwork she struggled to file on her own. Together they applied for PEP Housing, affordable housing for seniors. “Gratitude is one word I would say for this place. Really. Gratitude is what I feel more than anything. Not to mention that the people who, are they are so there’s so able to do their job.” Jane was appreciative of the access to resources and often tried to encourage other clients to use them too – even if they were just staying at COTS for the emergency shelter. “Mary Isaak is good. Whenever they’re able, they shut off half the kitchen and make the other part of the kitchen a place for people to be accommodated with mattresses for sleep- especially in the bad weather.” 


Then, her application results came in. After months of filing paperwork and meeting with her Eileen, Jane had been accepted into permanent, affordable housing. Joy poured out of her as she prepared to move out. “I grew in love here. I grew in respect of others and to other people. . . To see that they are people, many of them have just marvelous, beautiful qualities that are different than me.”  

She made beautiful cards for everyone who had helped her at COTS, and hand delivered them to their office spaces before her moving day. 

“I know where I’m going is a lovely place, and I feel honored to have been so fortunate as to get a residence like this.”  

At 82 years of age, Jane was as excited as a kid in a candy shop looking forward to her new place. Jane is also planning on finding a way to contribute back to other people in need. She would like to volunteer with   

“Lutetia, and I love what she brings to people. And she knows that she tries to learn everybody’s name. Of course, she’s not going to know everybody’s name. And but I have to become a friend of hers. Well, we are friends. And I would like to find a way one day a week to work with her and to do part of the work that she’s doing on one of the days that she might be find me useful.” 


*Client’s name has been changed for privacy.