James recorded his story about how One Degree changed his life.
Transcript has been edited slightly for privacy and clarity. Audio has been condensed for brevity.
One Degree: How did you find out about One Degree and how do you use it?
James: I’m James. I can’t remember exactly how I got involved with One Degree but I remember I was living at an SRO in San Francisco. I was going through surgeries and wanted to get Section 8. I went through a lot of different possibilities and dirty resources to get on the Mayor’s list here in the city. I remember seeing One Degree online, and having a phone call, and they were interested in helping me by giving me resources. This was years ago, when I was first getting all my transitional paperwork in order.
A good foundation set was in-house counselors where I was living. It was bare minimum and I knew I could do better. […] I was disabled, having just gotten on social security. I got in touch with a One Degree counselor, she’s an online pen pal friend, [One Degree staff member]. She was always there for me when I was running out of options or having stress and anxiety over what I should do next. [...]
It went kind of nice, I planned it well. But I had all these concerns about moving. I’d never done that before. I had to organize it anyway and I talked to [One Degree staff member]. Actually, we chatted on email quite often. She was always there. She was like this little motivational guide behind me. She’s like, “Have you done this yet?” And I was like, “My God! She caught me again.” So, I will go back and redo it and I’ll always find another resource.
Catholic Charities here in the city had so much there for people even more down than I was. They could have taken resources and done what I did. My social security is a little higher than the average GA, so I could afford to start putting a little money away. I saved up just $500 for moving expenses and it turned out to be perfect because the moving company had a truck. It was $300 for 2 hours minimum. Bingo. [...]
And [One Degree staff member] was always there behind me. She was like, “Have you done this yet?” And she’ll always keep on me. So, One Degree was a big part of my transition. I had to say it was very positive. Very positive. If there’s anybody in the city that finds themselves homeless, the smart thing to do is take on some personal responsibility, and look for the resources available because they’re for real. All you have to do is ask and if it’s at all possible, they’re going to do what they can to make it happen for you. I’m really happy I met you guys.
One Degree: How would you describe One Degree to your family or friends if they were looking for resources? What would you tell them?
James: I would say One Degree has a wealth of resources that can apply towards any area. I even mentioned to [One Degree staff member] about glasses, she gave me all these references where I can get free glasses, and how I can get to the vision procurement at San Francisco General Hospital which I have now. She even hooked me up with massage and acupuncture after I told her I needed pain relievers. She gave me a list of places to look up at the city, some sliding scale and others free. Absolutely free. I never got a chance to take advantage of [some of] those because I was going through surgeries but I did go along her lines of recommendation and hooked up with acupuncture for pain relief. I would have never looked in those avenues if it hadn’t been for suggestions from One Degree. It really worked out well for me.
One Degree: Did you know these resources even existed when you started?
James: No clue. I’ve ventured the city for over 30 years but I never had to look for it. People don’t know what’s out there and I’m sure it’s really expensive to advertise to a market that really doesn’t know or have media exposure or watch TV. I guess it had to be word of mouth, which is pretty good.
One Degree: Tell us a little bit more about how you were feeling starting your journey and transition to housing. How did having One Degree make you feel?
James: It was really scary in the beginning. I felt like I’m doing this for no reason, giving out all this information, putting effort, etc. I really wanted to get out of where I was but I was on the street in the beginning. I got off the street and started to wise up.
I was scared. I didn’t know if things were going to happen the way I thought they would. I knew I was going to have to wait. One Degree stayed in constant contact with me. I was out of contact because my computer blew up. I kind of fried it but I got it fixed after a while. Then, [One Degree staff member] was right there again with, “Hey, I haven’t heard from you in a long time.” It was like a friend I didn’t know I had.
So, One Degree made me feel like there was actually someone out there that cared. It was a motivation that 11 o’clock at night, I can go back and read the email as say, “Hmmm. This is something I gotta do tomorrow morning.” And I’ll always give [One Degree staff member] updates and things worked out.
One Degree: What would you say are some of the unique things about One Degree versus any other way that you’ve used to find resources or get help?
James: The speed and accuracy of response. I can ask a question on the chat at 1 o’clock in the morning and know they will see it and respond the next day with a list of options and recommendations. It’s never just one, they share like four or five resources based on your need. You can browse through and get information to make your own choice. It’s always quick and concise, which is very useful.
One Degree: Can you summarize what the change has been like? What was your life like before and after One Degree?
James: Is there anything better than excellent? I have changed my whole life around. I’m shaving now, not so good but… I used to have long hair and I’m keeping it cut. I’ve been clean and sober now for over four years. Clean and sober is not a requirement for Section 8 though, anybody that has a problem can just ask for help and you’ll get it one way or another. You really will. I chose, before I even signed up for Section 8, to get clean and sober. It was just time and I’m glad I did. I’m glad I met people at One Degree, they helped me with choices I never knew I had. [...]
I’m living in the Northern California Presbyterian Homes and Services building. Newly remodeled. It’s beautiful apartments.
Anyone can do it. All they have to do is just be a little bit responsible and ask someone for help. And One Degree was there with me the whole way.
Thank you, folks.