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Rocky and Delilah: Voices from the Navigation Center

by Ken Fisher, Resized and Cropped

When we first heard from Rocky Anderson and Delilah Soto a year ago, they were on the brink of finding housing through the Navigation Center in San Francisco.


Today, they live in a Tenderloin SRO, or single room occupancy hotel. The room is cozy: It doesn’t fit too much more than their bed, some furniture, and their two dogs. But Rocky and Delilah have a full bathroom to themselves, which makes them lucky in this building. 


Rocky and Delilah had been in and out of homelessness for most of their adult lives, and they say the Navigation Center was exactly what they needed.


“It was cool, it was different then any shelter,” says Delilah. “I wouldn't even want to say it was like a shelter, because you got bring your animal,” which many traditional shelters don’t allow.


The Navigation Center offered them personalized case management, so instead of hunting down each housing program or benefit office individually, Delilah and Rocky found everything they needed in one place. 


Officials say the average client spends about three months at the Navigation Center. Rocky and Delilah had their IDs and paperwork in order, so they moved through the program in just three weeks.


But once the whirlwind died down, Delilah and Rocky realized just how big a change they had signed up for.


A big transition


“I've been sleeping outside for so long,” Rocky says. “So when I first got here, I felt like the walls were closing in. And still to this day, I sleep with the windows wide open just to have that fresh air come in.” 


On the street, they did their best to avoid the Tenderloin -- that’s where they used to get high, and where there were all sorts of triggers luring them back. And now, their new home was right in the middle of it.


They’d worked so hard to find housing, and now they felt like it was a setup. In the first two months under their new roof, Delilah and Rocky relapsed. The stress of such a dramatic life change wore at them and they fell back on old habits. They didn’t pay rent, they racked up citations, and they should have lost their housing.


But they didn’t. The support network they’d found through Episcopal Community Services and the Navigation Center came together and found them money for back rent. They also set them up with meetings and programs to help them get clean. 


“The staff is wonderful,” says Rocky. “I guess they see something in us that we don't.” 


Building community


Now, over a year later, Delilah and Rocky have a solid community, and are working on building more stable lives. Rocky has a plan for a low-income dog grooming business, and she already has clients throughout the building. A flea dip, cut, and nail clipping are only $20.


Rocky and Delilah are grateful for their housing in the SRO, but they say this is just the beginning of their journey. 


“This isn't home! This is ‘The Spot,’” says Rocky. “We call this ‘The Spot.’ We're still on the search for a home.” 


“But overall, we're healthy. We're happy,” Delilah adds. “We're not where we want to be, but we're not where we used to be.”


It might not be home, but at least it’s their own.