By Ruth Roberts
Oakley, CA — At 62, Bertino suddenly found herself out of work, out of a steady income and rapidly running out of options. And then her luck changed.
“I was starting to feel panicked,” said Bertino. “I had lived in San Jose for 40 years, but I couldn’t afford it anymore. I had family here in East County so I came out here hoping to find something more affordable, and I found Golden Oak.”
Golden Oak Manor is an apartment community offering below market rate rents for qualified low-income seniors 55 and over. Run by EAH Housing, the non-profit organization is predicated on the belief that reasonably-priced quality homes can, and should, fill a need while also serving as an enhancement to the neighborhood.
In East County, where Section 8 housing and similarly federally-funded projects are hot –button topics, Golden Oak makes its case for neighborhood-friendly, respectable, low-income housing. And its advertisements are its residents.
“If I hadn’t found Golden Oak,” said Bertino, “I would be a bag lady living somewhere on the street, I know that for sure.”
Tara Carr has a similar story.
When a brain aneurysm and subsequent treatments derailed Carr’s career as a real estate agent, the Golden Oak resident discovered that despite an extensive education and successful career, life sometimes throws you curveballs when you least expect them.
“What I learned,” said Carr “is that you never know when something is going to happen to you. I had no idea I would be in this situation, but if I hadn’t found this place, well, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I am so happy here, and the people are so wonderful.”
Found in 1968, EAH Housing has developed over 5,200 units of affordable housing throughout the United States. The Oakley location, built in 1998, houses 50 560-square-foot apartments with user friendly security gates, in-unit emergency call systems and an on-site resident manager. These amenities, says EAH Housing CEO and President Mary Murtagh, are a prime example of how low-income senior housing can and does work.
“Golden Oak Manor is a model of the kind of development that works for both residents and the community.” said Murtagh. “It is a neighborhood accepted and welcomed by the (larger) neighborhood.”
And being a good neighbor, says Golden Oak Property Manager Nicole Amos, is exactly what makes the facility more of an extension of the neighborhood, rather a separate entity.
“The atmosphere at Golden Oak is almost a neighborhood within a neighborhood,” said Amos. “The residents are all friends…sharing potluck dinners and other social activities. It’s a very vibrant, active and friendly atmosphere that translates to the community surrounding it.”
For Carr, it simply translates into home.
“A lot of the people here are alone,” said Carr, “and so we kind of look out for each other and help out where we can. It’s home and it’s wonderful.”