Empowered By Orange County United Way

Sisters leave a shelter because someone said welcome home

Patty and Cathy Selves in the yard of the condo they are now renting from Matt Rink in Fullerton through Welcome Home OC. (Courtesy of the Selves family)

By LOU PONSI | Orange County Register

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In 2013,  through no fault of their own, sisters Patty and Cathy Selves found themselves homeless.

The sisters spent nearly eight years just barely scraping by, living in shelters and motels, while dealing with serious medical issues.

Now, Patty, 65, and Cathy, 58, Selves find themselves in a space they can finally call home – a two-bedroom Fullerton condo.

“If you come in here you can tell,” Patty Selves said. “It feels like a home and it looks like one.”

The story of how the sisters got from there to here involves a good Samaritan taking a chance and an Orange County United Way program called Welcome Home OC.

In 2006, the sisters’ mother was deteriorating from dementia and their father was diagnosed with lung cancer. They moved into their parent’s Anaheim home to care for them, working part-time while splitting shifts helping mom and dad.

Their father died in May 2010, followed a year later by their mother in  October 2011.

So the sisters would have the money needed to care for their parents, their father had entered into reverse mortgage for the house. The money ran out when their mother died and they were soon told they would have to leave the house.

They relocated to Texas, a move that never worked out.

Returning to California, the sisters started out staying with a friend but then wound up living in an out of motels for years.

“I did work,” Cathy Selves said. “We could barely afford the motels. We wound up back on the streets.”

In 2018, medical issues derailed her ability to work.

The sisters had been living in a transitional living facility for women in Orange County for about 18 months when they were pointed toward the Orange County United Way and its  Welcome Home OC program.

The program encourages landlords to rent to low-income families and individuals by paying for upfront rental fees, including security deposits, holding fees, furnishings and other move-in costs, along with a portion of the monthly rent.

Since launching a year ago, Welcome Home OC program has found housing for 200 people in 100 households.

But landlords have to be willing for the program to succeed.

Enter Matt Rink who has been involved with Orange County United Way for almost 10 years.

Rink was helping his mother move from her Fullerton condo to a board-and-care facility, when he learned about the sisters’ situation.

Since WelcomeHome OC was picking up the tab for move-in costs and the sisters were getting help with rent from a housing voucher, Rink said he figured filling the condo through WelcomeHomeOC would be no riskier than finding tenants on his own.

“I was a little concerned, but still very confident,” Rink said. “I’ve seen the programs that OC United Way supports and they do a great job.”

Since moving into their new home in February, the sisters have settled in nicely.

The condo is near a large park in the northern part of town and the sisters see trees and shrubs when they look out the window or stand on the patio.

They also get regular “visitors” in the form of three squirrels and two ducks that show up at the doorstep, Patty Selves said.

“They are very nice little creatures,” she said. “I love them.”

And Rink said he doesn’t regret his decision to rent the place through the WelcomeHomeOC program.

“To see somebody who has come so far and  has finally gotten to a place,” he said, “it’s so special. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that I helped somebody.”

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