Struggling to Live on a Fixed Income

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  • Lois Cotton at Armstrong 1
  • Lois Cotton at Armstrong 2
  • Lois Cotton at Armstrong 3

Lois Cotton was on the verge of homelessness when she moved into Armstrong Place Senior Housing in 2011.

The 66-year-old retired administrative assistant left Tulare, Calif., for San Francisco from in 2008 to be closer to her son and daughter.

In the years after she arrived, Lois struggled to find a place to live within the means of her fixed income. For a brief time, she lived with an elderly member of her congregation. When her friend became ill, however, Lois had to find a new arrangement. She spent nearly two years looking for secure, affordable housing in the city. Failing that, Lois knew she’d have to move to somewhere like the Central Valley, where rents are far less expensive.

“I wouldn’t even try to stay here if I didn’t have this housing,” she says of her studio apartment at Armstrong Place.

Now she describes her life as blessed. Lois cherishes the openness and friendliness of her neighbors. They say hello to each other while passing in the hall. They look after one another, keeping track of when they last saw someone in the lobby or TV room. Residents leave boxes of food to share, or if they’ve had a productive spell in the kitchen, a cake or pile of cookies. “People feel like giving,” she says. “There’s no cool aloofness here.”

Lois also enjoys the convenience and security of living at Armstrong Place. She can walk across the street to a main rail line. She takes the train to see the eye doctor since parking is limited. When she doesn’t want to use her car, she leaves it in the building’s garage, where it’s safe from tickets, scratches and dents.

Lois calls it a privilege to live here, and delights over the fact that she’s one of the building’s first residents. “I think this is the first time I have ever had anything brand new that no one ever lived in,” she says. “It’s pretty special to me.”

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