Thuylynh Nguyen’s family came to the U.S. from Vietnam in order to escape political persecution. Her father had spent eight years as a prisoner of war after serving as a soldier in the South Vietnamese army. The U.S. granted her family asylum in 1991.
Thuylynh's parents had a tough time deciding to start over in a totally new country. They moved into San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, into a one-bedroom apartment with another Vietnamese family.
Thuylynh remembers it being "a very, very unsafe neighborhood for us, especially for girls like us. There was a lot of robbery, fighting, shouting, shooting drunk people, homeless people on the street all the time."
Thuylynh’s father earned $1.50 an hour working at a liquor store. It wasn’t nearly enough to move the family out of their cramped quarters, so they applied for housing assistance. Again and again, without success. Until one day in 1994, they were told they won the housing lottery. In fact, they were granted first pick of their unit in a brand new complex in Hayes Valley.
She beams describing the smell of the new carpet and paint but says the most special part was the security they felt in the new neighborhood.
Thuylynh now works as an IT technician for Stanford Hospital and University. She is now able to support her parents, who are retired.
"Every day, waking up every day in the morning, I just feel so fortunate and deeply appreciative to be living here," she says. "I'm thinking: 'My gosh, if we didn't win the housing lottery, we wouldn't have ended up here, and I don't know where I would be living.' Struggling a lot probably, still struggling through."