On October 13, 2009, typhoon strength winds whipped through the San Francisco Bay Area, tearing down trees and causing flooding throughout the region. In the small city of Morgan Hill, in southern Santa Clara County, the flood came through so quickly that the town ran out of emergency signs – and many just floated along their paths.
As with most natural disasters, property damage had a more profound effect than meets the eye. In downtown Morgan Hill, an apartment complex was flooded. In the first floor apartment, the water reached over 18 inches – a height up the waist of its youngest resident, 4 year old Denise. “We lost everything,” says Maria Palomo, a mother of four. Maria, Francisco, and their children received immediate assistance through the Red Cross, but the urgent quest of “what next” loomed heavily on them.
Following assistance from the Red Cross, the Palomo family lived in a temporary home before the City of Morgan Hill connected them with EAH Housing. During those weeks of transition before moving to Morgan Hill Ranch, Maria kept the children indoors when they heard beer bottles thrown to the street from their upstairs neighbors. Sixteen year old Edwardo had trouble sleeping there, where the children shared space on the floor. At their new apartment at Morgan Hill Ranch, he says, “I am mostly grateful for our home here because we feel safe here – we can sleep in peace.”
The first impression a visitor has of the Palomo family is one of a united, loving group where even the oldest teenage boy is proud of his spotless cleaning job so that their new home is as welcoming as it can be. “We have seen a lot in the four months we have been in Morgan Hill, but it just makes our family stronger. Our oldest boys are growing up, but we will always stick together.”
Francisco, a resident of the Bay Area for over 20 years, works in construction at his brother’s family owned small business. Originally from Mexico, the family stuck together through a 10 year process of finalizing immigration. As is true with the construction industry across the US, work has slowed dramatically over the last two years. Even if jobs come, the money is uncertain. Neighbors, friends, and the local churches provide crucial support when families struggle; and this reciprocal support network mirrors the Palomo family’s own efforts.
The family now lives in an EAH Housing community, Morgan Hill Ranch. Here, they live in a bright 3 bedroom apartment they can afford. When looking to the future, Maria says that “my dreams are to keep on going, to provide the best for my children, so they can be everything they want to be.” Jose, 17, is a promising artist who excels in computer science, and aspires to be an architect. Raphael, 10, is a shy fifth grader who loves math and wants to be a police officer. Even 4 year old Denise knows that she “wants to be something big – a doctor, so I can heal my babies.” Edwardo has also taken advanced computer training, but when pondering his future, he smiles and looks away. “I don’t know what I want to do yet, but I do know that I want to be a good man.”