By Annan Paterson
April 4, 2012
Margie at The Villas in Hamilton (Credit: Annan Paterson)
For more than 15 years my community work in Novato has brought me into contact with a rich and diverse group of colleagues, neighbors and friends. As a blogger for Novato Patch, I want to share some of the incredible life experiences I've come to know as a worker, volunteer and advocate in town.
Through my recent work with Stand Up For Neighborly Novato and Live Local Novato Leaders, I've had the honor to hear and document experiences of people who live in or need affordable homes. I hope their challenges and victories will give you insight and inspiration, as they have me.
The first person I want to introduce you to is Margie. We met recently and she dictated the following oral history to me:
“My name is Margie Talavera. I am a Vietnam veteran. I served in the Navy from 1973-1979 as a hospital corpsman. I was trained to work in mostly different departments of the hospitals and clinics. ... I spent a lot of time placed in places where they train pilots. There were times I did witness some unfortunate sacrifices the pilots made when they were learning how to fly.
They moved me over to psychiatric technician because many men were coming back and they weren’t well. They weren’t well at all. Their spouses didn’t recognize them, and they were having a lot of trouble and getting in trouble, so the psychiatric ward began to fill up with Vietnam vets, so in that capacity I worked in group therapy, giving out meds, and participating with them in healthy lifestyles.
When I joined the Navy, I made a pledge that I would give my life for this country. The Navy taught me a lot of things about job ethics, looking out for others, and just showing up and doing the right thing.
After I got out of the Navy, I was sure I was going to do the right thing and move forward with my life, and in the beginning, it seemed to go along OK. However, I began to make some mistakes and began to fail at things, which eventually led me to become homeless. There was a time when I lived out of my car. At first, I thought I deserved it. But it became very painful and very humiliating. I never want to go through that again and I am sorry when I see others out there like that.
Then, I went for help. I went to the VA, Fort Meyer, in San Francisco. They saved my life. I attended programs, I began to work again, and to this day I follow a program that enriches my physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
And now here I am at 57 years old living here in Novato. It’s kinda new to me, even though I was raised in the Bay Area. I didn’t really know anything about Novato, just passed it a couple of times.
I am so lucky I live in the Hamilton Villas. They renovated these apartments for people 55 and over. I was fortunate to get in here because of my Section 8 voucher. What I found here in Hamilton is more than I can imagine: peace, clarity, friendliness and every kind of thing that you need right close by. For someone like me, that’s a big help. I often think about homeless people, and I think about homeless families. I know what they are going through and how much it hurts. Hamilton is a wonderful place to live.
If our veterans could come home, and be welcomed home, be welcomed back to Novato — let them live here, let them find their way after leaving the service. Let them live in Novato in affordable housing. I think that would be the best.”