After hardships, and inspired by a home at Camellia Place, they are moving on to make room for another family

Eah Housing

Dublin, California, June 20, 2017 - “I just couldn’t believe it was ours,” said Felicia Ellis of the day in 2012 when she and her son, Darryn, moved into their two-bedroom EAH Housing apartment at Camellia Place in Dublin, Calif. “I didn’t believe it, even when they handed me the keys.”

After two years of turmoil, their new home was a sign their lives were turning around. Their “hell” included a job loss, a horrific car wreck caused by a drunk driver, eviction from their East Oakland condo and months of near homelessness.

Felicia, now 49, was laid off in January 2010 from her job as an executive assistant. Six months later, a drunk driver crashed into her parked car as she stood alongside it. Darryn, now 20, was sitting inside. Both ended up in the hospital. Darryn suffered a broken hand and arm, and two broken femurs, the largest bones in his legs. He couldn’t walk for six months.

While recovering from the accident, their rented condo went into foreclosure, leading to their eviction. They had no car, no money and no home. Felicia and Darryn first stayed with her sister, then in a motel and later with a cousin in Walnut Creek.

“My belief in God is what kept me grounded,” said Felicia. “To know that eventually it was going to be OK.”

Determined to start a new career and lift herself up, Felicia began a two-year program in nutrition and dietetics at Merritt College in Oakland. Even before completing an associate degree there she landed a job as a food service supervisor at Santa Rita Jail. She and her crew prepared 10,000 meals a day, feeding inmates at jails all over northern California.

Meanwhile, Darryn went to school in Dublin. Before and after classes, he spent time with cousins living at Camellia Place. Soon he and his mother decided they wanted to make their new home there.

Recently, after five years living at Camellia Place, Felicia and Darryn moved to a market-rate apartment in another development just across the street. Confident she can afford the higher rent, Felicia says she wants to make room at Camellia for another family trying to lift itself up.

“We did our five years and now it’s time to move on,” said Felicia. “EAH has been a blessing to me and my family. I hope EAH keeps expanding and growing because people need a break.”

It’s a bittersweet decision. Felicia says she misses the friendly, helpful management team and neighbors of Camellia Place. But she takes pride in the hard work that made her move possible.

After leaving Santa Rita, Felicia worked at Highland Hospital for two years before taking her current job at the Windsor Post-Acute Care Center, a skilled nursing site in Hayward, as director of food and nutrition services.

“The walk my son and I have walked has kept us grounded and humble,” said Felicia. “I don’t take life for granted; I don’t take people for granted. I’m just glad that people I met along the way believed in me.”