For the past month, Truckee resident
Maggie Deto has been scrambling for a place to park her camping
trailer. The obvious answer would be her driveway. But the problem is,
this trailer — which is borrowed, lent to her temporarily by a retired
state patrolman — is now Deto's only home.
Deto has struggled on
the brink of homelessness for the past six months, ever since she was
evicted from her apartment in Henness Flats after a dispute with the
apartment complex over mold growth and rent.
The story of how
she arrived in this situation is tortuous, but suffice it to say that a
perfect storm of mounting medical problems (and bills) along with a run
of bad luck have landed her in a state of constant flux, where she is
living bill-to-bill and day-to-day.
“It's like everything came down on me at once,” Deto said. “And everywhere I turn, I run up against something else.”
along with her 17-year-old son, Christian, stayed in the trailer
through the winter months, when she said “it would get so cold that if
you left your shoes on the floor of the trailer, ice would fill your
shoes.” She had been parking the trailer in a church parking lot, where
she has been allowed to access their electricity.
Recently, the church asked Deto to move on. And soon, she will have to return the trailer.
applied for Social Security Disability Insurance, citing her physical
ailments, which include fungal growth in her stomach. After being
denied the first time, she is awaiting word on her re-application.
her only income stems from the California Department of Social
Services' Cash Aid program, which provides her with $500 each month.
Deto said there are small jobs she could work to supplement her income,
but said that if she receives a single paycheck, her disability
insurance will be denied.
“Basically, I'm just stuck in waiting,” Deto said.
Looking for help
As a result of her financial circumstances, Deto has been in touch with
Truckee social services and philanthropic organizations, dealing
extensively with the Family Resource Center (FRC) of Truckee. But, as
Deto has found out, there is only so much an organization like the
Family Resource Center can do.
“They have been incredible and have done as much as they can,” Deto said. “But they don't have all the resources.”
Caldari, the Deputy Director at the center, said her organization is
limited when it comes to providing housing for those in need. Making
matters worse, the demand for their services has risen during a time
when their funding has been dramatically reduced.
"We can try to
set people up with affordable housing, but sometimes we can only be a
link for people,” Caldari said. “We have dealt with homelessness, and
we do have some regular people who are in that situation. Homelessness
does exist here, and it could be growing, because we know of several
people who are definitely on the cusp of being in that position.”
is arguably in that position already. Helping her with her struggle is
Rob Sayers, a Truckee resident who says he was nearly homeless four
times in the last five years.
Sayers said through his
experiences (and by observing Deto's), there is a need for more social
services in Truckee, particularly to address the issue of homelessness.
He emphasized the absence of a homeless shelter in Truckee.
is a gap between the needs of the struggling class and the services
that are available,” Sayers said. “If you are evicted, then where are
you going to go?”
Sayers, who suffered a serious spinal injury
when a routine surgery to address a bone spur went awry more than two
decades ago, can work only part-time — he is a clerk at the local
Holiday Inn — but is able to make ends meet with the disability
insurance he receives. Before that insurance was approved, however,
Sayers said he was at one time down to just $140 to his name, and was
When he made a financial recovery, he
wanted to start work on an agency that addressed what he calls
“intermediate homelessness,” for those who are neither acutely or
chronically homeless but those in a state of transition.
figured that if I had such a problem when I was struggling, then
someone else probably does,” he said. “And Maggie is my first client.”
ultimate goal is to acquire property — through financial donations or
the donation of property itself — that can be turned into a homeless
shelter. Though homelessness is far from a glaring issue in Truckee,
the financial crisis has left few untouched. Individuals and families
who were already in low-income situations may have to face the prospect
As Kaili Sanchez, the Truckee Program
Director of Project MANA (Making Adequate Nutrition Accessible), said
no one is immune to financial turmoil.
“What I've found through
referral services is that people are coming to use our services that
used to own businesses,” Sanchez said. “And it's the first time they've
ever done that. But now they have a problem because of the economy. And
this means there is an increased need for rental assistance and
bill-paying and other related services.”
Project MANA, which
serves Northern Nevada and Northern California counties, distributes
food each week in Truckee. Sanchez said the number of people served
each week has risen from around 40 individuals in the fall to around 80
families per week during the winter months. She also said homelessness
is an issue that needs increasing attention.
homelessness here, whether it's people who camp, people who get dropped
off hitch-hiking,” Sanchez said. “We have people living in trailers and
tents through the winter time — not a huge population — but we have
people doing that. There's definitely a hidden population here that
people don't necessarily see.”
‘Between the cracks, in the trenches'
Sayers describes that population as people “between the cracks and in
the trenches.” He said that when individuals wind up in a dire
situation, they have to learn to navigate the social services arena —
something he said can be a daunting task.
you're plunged into the struggling class — working poor, low income and
sub-low income — you're plunged into the social services arena to help
meet your needs,” Sayers said. “But when you go to that well, you
sometimes find yourself thrown down it.”
Sayers recalls the
struggle he had in acquiring disability insurance after his spinal
injury, when doctors denied he had problems, even while he was
suffering from throbbing neck pain and various other debilitating
ailments. It wasn't until an MRI verified that his spinal cord was
damaged and a cyst had developed in his spine that he was no longer
branded as “hysterical and hypochondrial,” Sayers said.
ran up against similar challenges while applying for her disability
aid, since it is not easy to objectively identify the stomach pain and
other physical issues she struggles with. Sayers said Deto has tried
everything — “When you're poor, you have to work all the angles,” he
said — but still remains in a waiting game with no definite outcome.
her disability insurance does not come through — which would be in the
neighborhood of $2,000 per month — she feels like she will have nowhere
else to turn.
What would a homeless shelter require?
The feeling of helplessness is what Truckee local Rob Sayers wants to
address through the creation of a homeless shelter and an outreach
“From my experience, at every turn, there is a need for more services for the struggling class,” Sayers said.
Resource Center's Monica Caldari agrees that Truckee could use more
help. Asked about a homeless shelter specifically, she said, “I
wouldn't think it's a bad idea.
“We have talked about that
subject here because right now there are people — people who are not
actually homeless — who have received eviction notices because they
can't make their payments,” Caldari said.
Caldari said that while her agency has discussed the idea of a homeless
shelter, the Family Resource Center is having enough trouble
maintaining its current level of services with its financial
Caldari thinks the creation of a shelter, if it
were going to be a sustainable venture, would require a collaborative
effort with local government.
“I think it would have to be done
through the Town of Truckee,” she said. “You would need the property
and the money to run it. It would definitely have to be a
town-community collaborative effort.”
Assistant to the Town
Manager Alex Terrazas said that the town is not currently exploring the
possibility of a homeless shelter, though he added that “there are
probably some folks out there” who are struggling to find housing.
The town does offer its affordable housing program, which is available to residents who meet the income requirement.
FAIR USE NOTICE. This document may contain copyrighted
material the use of which may not have been specifically authorized by the
copyright owner. Tenants Together is making this article available on our
website in an effort to advance the understanding of tenant rights issues in
California. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such
copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright
Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your
own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright