Buena Vista Midtown resident, once homeless after husband’s death, finds new life as volunteer and housing advocate

Eah Housing

In just four days in 2002, Nancy went from living a comfortable life in suburban Campbell, Calif. with her husband and teenage daughter to being a widow faced with homelessness. Her husband, a 57-year-old Silicon Valley engineer, had come down with a cold. But compromised by Type 2 diabetes, he was quickly overtaken by pneumonia and died.

Nancy was bereft. Their savings didn’t last long and she couldn’t afford to stay in their rented home. Her daughter moved to Ohio to stay with a relative and Nancy found herself in a San Jose homeless shelter.

“It was scary,” said Nancy, 65. “I never expected to be in that situation. If homelessness happened to me, it could happen to anyone.”

But she didn’t give up. After six months in the shelter and two years in transitional housing, Nancy eventually found a secure home as one of the first residents of Buena Vista Midtown, an EAH Housing community for seniors that opened in San Jose, Calif. in 2014.

Now she is a whirlwind of volunteer work. Nancy has taught English as a Second Language at a Santa Clara County library, helped out at an American Cancer Society wig bank and supports a foundation helping women in Africa manage difficult pregnancies. She’s even teaching chess to a fellow Buena Vista resident.

“I feel like I’m giving back, I really do,” said Nancy.

She also gives back by advocating for more housing for low-income people like herself. In March, she was one of 10 EAH Housing residents, including five from Buena Vista Midtown, that went to Sacramento to meet legislative staff members working for Assemblymember Evan Low and State Senator Bob Wiecowski, whose districts include Buena Vista Midtown.

“What I really liked about it is that I told the staffers my story and they listened,” said Nancy. “I told them we’re trying to put a human face on homelessness. Yes, there are people in the streets, but there are also people in apartments that lose them and go into homelessness. And they really listened.”

Life as a disabled senior on a fixed income is not keeping her from spreading her wings to give back. “I’m starting to really fly as a volunteer,” said Nancy. “I’m not ready to sit down and die. I still have a lot to give. God has been good to me.”