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Redding Couple Escapes Homelessness With the Help of HHSA Staff

Published March 20, 2019
  • Success Stories
  • Unsheltered Adult Program

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For 11 years, Julie and Ben Harmon’s sweat and tears had gone into paying the mortgage on their home on Riviera Drive in Redding.

Then in February 2018, a cascade of tragic health issues led losing their home to foreclosure. Within a couple weeks, they were homeless and sleeping inside their truck at the Walmart parking lot at night.

“My husband I have worked our whole lives. But because of medical issues and the economy, we lost our home,” Julie said.  “It was scary, especially at our age, the insecurity of not having a warm pillow to lay down on at night or a place to be safe at night.”

Suddenly being unsheltered also put their health at risk. Ben was suffering from the early stages of dementia, and Julie was recovering from kidney issues and a heart attack that left only 25 percent of her heart functioning.

Yet through the help of a friend at the Western Service Workers Association, Julie found HHSA’s Unsheltered Adult Program and Social Worker Neil Young. Within six months, Neil helped Ben and Julie qualify for a Section 8 housing voucher, develop a source of income and locate a friendly landlord who was willing to give them a chance.

Now that they have an affordable apartment - and are buffered from the extreme stress of homelessness – Julie said Ben’s dementia has stabilized and her cardiologist declared the leaky valve in her heart has repaired itself.

“Neil was one of the first people we met who treated us like regular human beings when we told him we were homeless,” Julie said. “Without Neil and that county program, I would have given up. I would have been in a tent or mountain somewhere.”

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How the Harmons Became Homeless Despite Working All Their Lives

Shortly after the Harmons bought their house, Ben lost his union construction job when the housing bubble burst. He continued to drive trucks and work odd jobs, but then he was diagnosed with dementia and Julie started to struggle with severe heart and kidney ailments. Julie was fired from her job, she says, because she was “unreliable” due to her poor health, and the $810 in Ben’s disability income didn’t come close to covering their monthly $1273 mortgage payment.

They learned in November 2017 their home was being foreclosed on and by February 2018 they were living out of their truck. Julie said they were offered a place to stay at the Good News Rescue Mission, but she couldn’t accept because of Ben’s condition. Men and women are separated at night at the Mission, and she feared Ben would wander off if he woke up in the morning unable to find her.

How HHSA’s Neil Young Helped Them

(Above: Listen to Neil and Julie discuss their partnership as they worked to find a home for the Harmons.)

Neil  was able to immediately locate temporary housing for Ben and Julie, so they would have a roof over their heads.

He then worked with In-Home Support Services so that Julie could earn an income for the work she was doing as Ben’s caretaker.

Because of their medical issues, Neil was able to work with the Housing Department to prioritize their application for a Section 8 Housing voucher, which enabled them to afford the rent at their Willis Street apartment complex.

Neil also convinced the landlord to give Julie and Ben a shot, even though they had limited income. The foreclosure is listed on their records as an eviction, which can also be a red flag for some landlords, Neil said.

“Everything seemed to line up for (Julie and Ben) to be a success story,” Neil said. “And to be able to see the improvements in their health has been pretty awesome to watch. To be in a position to help like this is why I do what I do.”

(Below watch Julie and Neil talk about the remarkable worth they did together to help find her and her husband Ben a safe place to live.)

Giving Back

Julie was close to having to go on disability because of her health conditions, but now she’s able to work and contribute to the community. She even volunteers at the Western Service Workers Association, who helped her find Neil and the Unsheltered Adult program in the first place, she said.

“Neil and this program gave us hope. He restored my faith in people,” Julie said. “I’m very appreciative and now I want to pay it forward.”

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Amy Koslosky, Supervising Community Education Specialist, (530) 225-5970

Christopher Diamond, Media Liaison for Stand Against Stigma, In-Home Support Services, Adult Services and Mental Health, and alcohol and drug programs., (530) 229-8484

Jill Haskett, Media Liaison for CalWORKs, CalFresh, Medi-Cal,  Work Readiness, Women, Infant and Children (WIC) programs, Adult Protective Services, and other immediate need services, (530) 229-8413

Tim Mapes, Media Liaison for public health programs, Healthy Shasta, Emergency Preparedness, Foster parent programs and programs for children, (530) 245-6863

Jeri Butler, Senior Public Health Assistant, (530) 225-3689

Front Desk, (530) 245-6862

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