Homeless No More

Bobbie Mae in her brand new studio apartment.

Don’t call her by her given name. She prefers to go by Bobbie Mae.

What you can’t call Roberta Mae Collin anymore is…homeless.

That is because thanks to a San Diego County Homeless Outreach Team, Bobbie Mae finally has a permanent place to live.

Bobbie Mae, 63, had spent the past 13 years going from one live-in caretaker job to another. When an opportunity opened up in San Bernardino earlier this year, she decided to take it, but it did not work out. The person she was going to replace decided to stay. Bobbie Mae ended up with no job and no place to live.

In San Diego, one of her daughters was moving to Colorado and could not take her in. The other lives in a small apartment. There was no room for Bobbie Mae.

In late January, she was dropped off at Presbyterian Urban Ministries, a San Diego nonprofit agency that serves the homeless. Immediately, things took a positive turn.

Presbyterian Urban Ministries contacted Steven Paymard, a human services specialist with the the County Health and Human Services Agency and the San Diego Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team.

Homeless Outreach Teams usually consist of police officers, a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team clinician and a County human services specialist. They go out on a daily basis and try to engage persons ready to commit to getting off the streets. The team will assist them by facilitating their placement into an emergency shelter and linking them with appropriate services.

No clothing and no ID

Paymard met Bobbie Mae and learned she had no income prospects, money, or benefits. She had no state ID, Social Security card, or clothing other than what she was wearing.

The Homeless Outreach Team took Bobbie Mae to St. Vincent de Paul Village. Paymard placed her in one of the 50 beds the team manages there and arranged for her to take the homeless survey.

Paymard helped Bobbie Mae get a birth certificate and the HOT took her to get a California ID and a Social Security card. Paymard helped her apply for food stamps, Medi-Cal, and general relief. Bobbie Mae got all of them.  He connected her to a medical provider and the team took her to several appointments.

“I had to make an extra effort to get her all the benefits she could qualify for. Our goal was to get her stable housing somewhere,” said Paymard, who has been working with the Homeless Outreach Team for 10 years. “It could have been difficult but everything seemed to fall into place.”

Steven Paymard visits Bobbie Mae in her new Talmadge apartment.

However, Paymard knew that a permanent supportive housing unit was opening up soon. It was in April that Bobbie Mae was encouraged to apply for St. Paul’s Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, where residents live independently at home and get in-home care, transportation, and personalized medical services. Kathleen Hemesath, another County human services specialist and HOT member helped Bobbie Mae with her application. It got accepted by PACE.

Paymard helped her apply for Supplemental Security Income, a federal government program that provides stipends to low-income people who are either aged 65 or older, blind, or disabled. Bobbie Mae was granted SSI and got a retroactive check for $2,417.06 and receives a monthly benefit of nearly $900.

“The timing for everything was right,” Paymard said. “This is a very rewarding experience.”

A permanent place to live

In late August, Bobbie Mae moved into a furnished studio apartment at the newly built Talmadge Gateway Senior Housing. She lives on the top floor—“the penthouse”—of the complex and has a view of Talmadge, her new community.

“I give thanks to God for bringing all these people into my life,” said Bobbie Mae, sitting on the edge of her full bed covered with a gray comforter. “They’re the ones that got me here.”

Bobbie Mae is thankful to have a permanent place to live.

“Living on the streets was traumatic,” she said.

With the money she got, she bought a new sofa and a recliner lift chair.

“This place is a stepping stone to get into my own place,” Bobbie Mae said. “I’ve been buying my own stuff to make this a home.”


José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact