Like many people, Turlock resident Brent Ocken has not had a good 2020.
In March he had a fall and broke his hip. After surgery he was sent to Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation where he contracted COVID-19. He got through that, but then got pneumonia. In September his mother passed away.
And yet after all that he ended the year with a smile on his face.
Ocken is smiling because one major worry — having a place to call home — has been lifted off his shoulders.
Ocken was first introduced to Journal readers in December 2019 as he faced the possibility of having to move out of the place he had called home for more than two decades.
Ocken’s dilemma was an example of California’s housing crisis taking a heavy toll on senior citizens. The 67-year-old Ocken, who is disabled, received $951 a month from Social Security as his sole income. Out of that he would spend $650 for rent on his two-bedroom, one-bath duplex on Pioneer Avenue. It was tight, but Ocken would make it work with some careful budgeting.
After an overseas investor purchased the property Ocken’s rent was raised to $782 in April and by December of last year it was raised to $982.
“It would take everything I’ve got and I still wouldn’t have enough,” Ocken said at the time.
After Ocken’s story was published in the Journal the Turlock community came forward to help with monetary and food donations, including Turlock chiropractor Kym Lamarre, who helped Ocken with rent for several months.
Ocken also was set on the path to applying for Stanislaus County’s Housing Authority’s in-place voucher program, which helps residents already in a home remain there by helping with rent.
Ocken said it was a tedious process and required quite a bit of help from friends, but it all paid off when he was approved for the assistance.
“I was so happy when I found out that I got approved,” Ocken said. “It took away that worry.”
He also was approved for food assistance and now has a caregiver who comes to help him.
“I feel like I have been blessed and feel very grateful,” Ocken said. “I’m so thankful for all the people who have helped me.”