When it comes to ending homelessness, Many Mansions of Thousand Oaks has always had the right focus: housing first. Celebrating 35 years of providing affordable housing in the cities of Oxnard, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, overseeing 14 properties with more than 500 housing units valued at $93 million, the organization currently serves more than 1,200 low-income residents, of which 300 are children. Since the organization was founded, Many Mansions had helped more than 3,000 people. This weekend, Many Mansions will release 35 Stories: Stories from Many Mansions in honor of its 35-year Anniversary, which is a collection of personal stories of recovery and hope. Over the course of the next year, the VCReporter will highlight the work of Many Mansions, beginning this week with the story of mother and daughter Jaqueline Brown, 50, and Brittney Doidge, 23. To get involved, go to www.manymansions.org.
By Jacqueline Brown
A year ago I couldn’t have imagined what great things were about to happen. Many Mansions has turned my life around 180 degrees, bringing positive and amazing experiences to me and my daughter Brittney.
For the last four and a half years I was very sick with encephalitis, which is an infection in the brain. This illness turned my life upside down. I went from working in banking six days a week with 55-60-hour work weeks to my life coming to an abrupt and complete standstill. It was a very scary journey at the time. I lost everything — my self-worth, my money, everything. I felt as though there was no light at the end of this tunnel, and I was sure my life was just going to end. Luckily, about two years ago I got some great doctors that started to work together to get to the core of the problem, and I literally began to wake up from this fog as my brain and body began to heal. Unfortunately, even though my health was beginning to improve, my life remained very uncertain because by this time, my daughter and I were facing even bigger challenges — we had become homeless.
Then a miracle happened: We moved into Hillcrest Villa [in Thousand Oaks]. I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t believe it until, on July 15, 2013, I got a phone call from Many Mansions to come and to pick up my keys and move in. I felt as if I had just won the lottery. Brittney and I hadn’t seen the apartment until the day we walked into our new home. We both started to cry. It took our breath away. Brittney hadn’t had her own room since she was 8 years old. We both couldn’t believe what we were seeing: beds, furniture, coffeemaker, dishes, cookware and a microwave. We had thought we would never again have these things as our own. It was just so unbelievable!
What is even more incredible about this whole experience is that many years ago I did some work as an employee of Santa Barbara Bank and Trust to help raise money for Many Mansions. Of course, at the time I had no idea how Many Mansions would later completely change my life for the better. At first when we moved in, I felt some unworthiness and guilt about being given this incredible gift. Then my mom and my best friend helped me realize that I am living a “paying it forward” life.
Many Mansions has brought life back to me. My health continues to improve and I am getting stronger all the time. My case manager has been wonderful, and she even assisted Brittney to apply for a Many Mansions scholarship to go back to school so she can become a teacher. She got it. Now she is clear on the direction she wants her life to take. Living at Many Mansions has brought hope and joy back into our lives. Simple pleasures like cooking, gardening and attending the Hillcrest Coffee and Treats socials bring abundant happiness and help me heal. Brittney and I are so thankful to be here, and we love this great opportunity that continues to improve the quality of our life.