Diane, Frances, and Kimberly have long considered San José their home. But each fell upon hard times and were unhoused for several years before finding a place to call home. Through their own resilience and the help of mission-driven affordable housing developer Affirmed Housing – along with public and private partners – each of their lives have been transformed as new community members of Vela Apartments in the historic east San José Mayfair neighborhood. Housing Trust is proud to have supported this community with early financing.
“This place saved my life,” shared Frances. “I was homeless for four years before I came to Vela. Though I went through a lot of difficulties and have had a lot of medical challenges, I was determined to end my homelessness. I am so happy to have a safe and healing home.”
Born and raised in San José, Frances grew up middle class and attended a local private school. Living with Type 1 diabetes from the age of 12 eventually led to amputating parts of her feet and left her unable to walk. After she was discharged from the hospital, she became homeless with nowhere to go. She ended up living in an encampment. Yet despite her health challenges, Frances never gave up.
Just like Frances, Kimberly’s spirit of determination helped her endure a life-changing back injury that cut her career as a chef short. She eventually became homeless after she could no longer lean on the support of a relative. Moving from hotels to motels, and then an encampment, was a challenge for Kimberly and her four children. Nearly nine years of homelessness led to fading hope that she could have her own home.
Diane also lost stable housing after working consistently for 34 years. After her long-term relationship ended, she faced financial challenges and couch surfed with friends before becoming unsheltered and in an encampment. She was homeless for nearly five years, during which she struggled with substance abuse and incarceration.
Through PATH outreach support services, each of these women began their journey to healing and a safe, stable home of their own. PATH provides accessible, wrap-around services on site that make a true difference for residents in affordable housing developments like Vela Apartments. PATH connected Diane to a shelter, where she lived for one and a half years before moving into Vela in the fall of 2022.
“I feel blessed for a place to call my own,” said Diane. “Christmas and the holidays used to be challenging times. I love to cook and am grateful that now I can host friends at my new apartment.”
She recently celebrated the holidays indoors, all while enjoying the views of the east San Jose foothills from her new home.
Affirmed Housing and PATH also welcomed Kimberly into the new Vela community last fall. As a former chef, she was overjoyed to find a furnished kitchen in her new apartment. Everyday, she enjoys the fresh air of the upper patio and is excited that her kids can now visit her.
“I am thankful for the things that most people take for granted: being able to lock my door, having a mailbox, and being able to cook in my own kitchen,” shared Kimberly. “Before I came to Vela, I saw a lot of scary situations and had a hard time getting any sleep. Now I can rest because I feel safe. It feels so good to have my own home.”
Frances also stayed in interim housing before being connected to an apartment at Vela. Although she suffered a heart attack shortly after moving in, she is grateful to have a safe home for healing. Frances is now learning how to walk again and looks forward to gardening on the rooftop deck. She finds inspiration from her son, whom she is excited to have as a frequent visitor.
Frances, Kimberly, and Diane represent the heart of the Vela community as empowered women who teach us to never lose hope. Today, they are neighbors in the beautiful, 87-unit affordable housing development in the historic Mayfair community of east San José. The location is close to public transportation and surrounded by a vibrant community, with views of the foothills.
We celebrate these women and are honored to have helped them on their journey to stable housing, which resulted in forever homes for our neighbors when they needed it most.