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Valley Forum: View from the Sonoma abyss

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I very recently turned 70 years of age. It should have been a celebratory day. The day itself was filled with joys, big and small, thanks to my generous family and friends.

It was not celebratory.

Instead, I spent my day trying to figure out how I am going to survive financially in this wonderful town I have called home for five years and which has given me so much pleasure that I had hoped to spend the rest of my years here. I emptied the last of the monies in my 401k account. I borrowed yet again from my life insurance policy. The morning had started with another polite email informing me I did not get the latest job for which I had interviewed; disappointing as I would have gladly taken it even at the paltry $12 an hour I would have made.

I am mentally and physically fit with over 20 years of experience as a legal secretary. When I bought my home here, I saw the writing on the wall and realized I would have to go back to work again at some point and/or sell my home in order to provide me with the money I would need in my older years. However, I became complacent, I confess. It was easy to enjoy my days here in this beautiful Valley, and I thought I deserved some down time after a lifetime of hard work. I spent some of my time volunteering at FISH, a wonderful organization, when I should have been earning money for my own needs, but I thought I had options.

When I realized earlier this year that the time had come to get serious about my financial problems, I listed my home for sale in late April. It is now September, and I have not had one offer to buy my home. I live in the “best” mobile home park in Sonoma, except the space rent is exorbitant. It is the reason I cannot sell my home.

When I realized my home was not selling, I started looking seriously for a job in Sonoma Valley. I am hoping not to have to go outside of the Valley as the commute to and from any nearby town, i.e., Napa, Petaluma, Santa Rosa is now reaching the state of gridlock normally seen only in the immediate Bay Area, a problem I am very familiar with as I had, previous to moving to Sonoma, spent my fair share of time in achingly awful traffic going from my home in Belmont to my job in Mountain View.

I also started looking for less-expensive housing in Sonoma and nearby in case my home did sell. There is little available. The senior and affordable income apartments are full and some have even closed their waiting lists.

In a town that can and does take very good care of its tourists’ wants and needs, I am trying desperately to find a way to provide for my basic needs – safe housing, food, utilities and health care.

To say I am in danger of falling through the cracks is an understatement. It is more of an abyss.

This is not written out of self-pity. I do realize there are people who live in this city that are worse off than me and therefore more deserving of help. Rather, it is sent in an effort to raise the conscience of every person in Sonoma. If you are an employer, raise your employees’ wages and do not discriminate against applicants because of race, creed or age among other things. If you are renting housing, please make the asking price affordable. If you are a member of our local government (and I thank you for your dedication to what is sometimes a thankless job), please do not forget us aging baby boomers and our needs. All of you, please remember to be human and to watch out for your fellow man, woman and child for, in the end, all we have is each other. In the words of the immortal John Lennon:

“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people sharing all the world...”

Beverly Koepplin lives in Sonoma.