Markham Plaza resident, once homeless, says volunteering helps her stay stable

San Jose, CA, March 2020 – “I told State Senator Jim Beall how it was to be on the streets,” says Rosie, who was homeless for three years before finding a permanent home with EAH Housing at Markham Plaza in San Jose, Calif. “I told him to fight for us. I told him to muster up all the people he could influence with my story. He saw my emotion and my honesty. It made me feel good that he was concerned about what I had been through.”

Rosie, 61, shared her story with Beall in 2018 during a meeting held to thank him for supporting Prop. 1, the affordable-housing bond measure that passed later that year. Beall, a Democrat, represents the 15th district, which includes San Jose and other parts of Silicon Valley.

Rosie was born and raised in Hollister, Calif. by parents of Mexican American and Native American ancestry. She later worked for years at Silicon Valley electronics companies. But after a divorce to escape domestic abuse, she fell on hard times and became homeless, until she connected with EAH Housing.

“I like my Markham apartment; it makes me feel comfortable being in my own house,” says Rosie. “It helps keep me stable.”

Rosie, who counts Apache in her ancestry, is adamant she doesn’t believe in handouts. Even back when she was receiving food at a San Jose homeless shelter, she insisted on volunteering there in exchange, helping cook and serve the free meals. “It kept up my morale too,” she says.

Rosie now volunteers at Markham Plaza. She co-hosts resident advocacy meetings, helps run the food pantry and in 2018 was invited to affordable housing advocacy training in Washington, DC.

Also stabilizing for Rosie is her spiritual community at San Jose’s Church on the Hill, where she regularly attends services. Once a week she also helps a church pastor run a 6 p.m. Bible study class at Markham Plaza; she handles the 7 p.m. Bible class there on her own.

When Rosie lived on the streets, she found it difficult to get help. But after a police officer referred her to a healthcare provider, she eventually found housing at a board and care home. After two years there, in 2008 Rosie was able to move to the Markham Plaza apartment she now shares with one of her three grown sons.

“It was hard (to ask for help,” says Rosie. “It took humility.”

Having been humbled in the past gives Rosie the strength to now advocate for others. “It gives me confidence to know I can help legislators understand what’s going on with homeless people through telling the story of what I’ve been through, that I can help influence legislators, knowing my voice and vote count.”