She is not the face of homelessness that you would expect. Valerie Lambert attends church services several times a week; she is a trained medical assistant and a former U.S. Air Force administrator. Yet a series of circumstances and what she calls ‘mistakes’ caused her to be homeless after a divorce eight years ago. More recently, she has been living in her car for over six months. Before that she worked at a motel in Morro Bay in trade for a room.
But now Valerie has renewed hope. She was accepted for an affordable rental apartment at the Villas at Higuera development by Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, a non profit organization committed to providing affordable housing and self-sufficiency programs in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.
“I feel so blessed and honored to have been accepted for an apartment. I am getting help and training for my financial and physical problems. It is just overwhelming. I am so touched.”
Studies of chronic homelessness show that Valerie’s plight is common: living on the streets leads to chronic medical problems, frequent emergency room visits, and more frequent hospitalizations.
A recent four-year study of homeless people with chronic medical problems in Chicago offers the most comprehensive evidence yet that efforts to move the homeless into permanent housing quickly can improve their lives and save taxpayer and government money.
For Valerie being homeless meant months and years of traumatic choices. “When you sleep in your car, it is cold every night. I had to make the choice whether to use the gas to keep the heater going in my car to stay warm or to be able to drive to get food. There are churches and food banks that have food but you have to find a way to get there.” She is happy to live in a clean studio apartment with a kitchen to prepare meals for herself. “People have been good to me. I am so grateful.