Video: Bay Area woman goes from homeless to helping the homeless

 

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Seven-thousand homeless people are looking for a place to sleep in San Francisco on Monday night.

Most of them won’t find one–at least not indoors. But one woman is helping people find some stability. She herself said she has a journey from homeless to a helper.

Just three years ago, Regina Bates had worked as a receptionist at a medical group, until she came back from disability leave to find out somebody else had been given her job. That was just as Bates gave a 30-day notice to move out of her apartment because she thought she’d be able to afford a nicer one.

Instead, she ended up unemployed and homeless.

“You feel like everyone’s looking at you,” Coalition on Homeless peer organizer Bates said. “My kids were constantly saying, ‘Mom, don’t tell people we’re homeless,’ you know, and they had a stigma behind it. They didn’t feel good about themselves.”

For the next several months, Bates and her family stayed at church shelters and in friends’ homes.

Through the tough times, though, she decided to pull herself up by her own bootstraps–at the public library.

“I was like, ‘this is my job to get myself out of homelessness, and I gotta research my way out of this situation’,” Bates said.

That research included ways to get free clothes for her kids. She found out how to use her library card to get free tickets to the zoo and other fun places in the city.

She also applied for jobs, and her administrative experience kicked in, eventually landing her two jobs, one of them with the Coalition on Homelessness.

Now, Bates is helping other families who are in a pickle she knows all too well.

“It keeps us comfortable,” homeless mother Ghaimah Cutkelvin said. “It gives us hope for a brighter future. It gives us inspiration. People like Regina, she feels where we’re coming from.”

Things got better for the Bates family, too.

They are on a five-year plan with a home subsidy program that puts a roof over their heads.

While she works to get others on their feet, Regina says she wants everyone to know that homelessness is not a disease.

“When you go by a person that is in need, that you feel like they might be homeless, or even if they’re not homeless, I think it’s really good for people to at least acknowledge the person. Say hello,” Bates said. “You might make their day.”

All this week, KRON will be covering the plight of the homeless in the Bay Area.

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