New Step Up members Cheryl and Billy Ray say that they’ve found peace and a second chance to pursue their goals after moving into their unit at the All-Star Lodge in San Bernardino. Cheryl and Billy Ray are two of 38 recent move-ins at the Step Up Project Homekey location, a 76-unit motel conversion made possible through the City and County of San Bernardino. After experiencing homelessness and serious health issues during the pandemic, they are very grateful for their newfound home.
Cheryl is currently battling cancer and Billy Ray couldn’t find stable work which led to their housing instability. In September 2020, they moved to Upland when a real estate friend offered them a vacant home to stay in their time of need. It seemed like a perfect situation, but after just a few weeks they were told they had to move out so that refurbishing crews could begin work. The couple ended up sleeping in their Dodge Charger. During this time, Cheryl was admitted to the hospital with health complications from her cancer. For two weeks, Billy Ray slept in the car in the hospital parking lot, unable to enter the hospital to visit Cheryl due to COVID-19 protocol.
Cheryl and Billy Ray’s lives began to take a turn for the better when Billy Ray was approached by the Chance Project while sleeping in the hospital parking lot. Initially, Billy Ray stayed at a Project Roomkey motel in San Bernardino alone, while waiting three weeks for Cheryl to be released from the hospital. Over a 5-month period, the couple would stay at the Orange Show Inn in San Bernardino and a trailer in Victorville, until being offered a Project Homekey unit at the All Star Lodge.
The All Star Lodge is a Project Homekey Permanent Supportive
Housing location that prioritizes individuals with chronic health conditions who are at high risk for COVID-19. Step Up teams offer on-site testing for COVID-19 for the residents, along with life skills, health and clinical support to assist the residents with their ongoing recovery. The Project Homekey initiative in California consisted of $600 million in grants to help cities and counties quickly secure housing as part of the Federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Fund. About $60 million of this money was earmarked for five Southern California counties: San Bernardino, Ventura, Orange, Riverside and Imperial. Building off Project Roomkey, the goal of the program was to acquire and quickly renovate motels to become interim or permanent supportive housing locations.
Cheryl and Billy Ray say they have found new hope with this opportunity to be housed at the All-Star Lodge. Reflecting on their return to San Bernardino after the last months of moving from place to place, Cheryl accepts they are where they need to be and has begun thinking about how she can give back, “I figured out, we’re supposed to be back. How can someone really understand homelessness and hunger and provide support to others if you haven’t been there and don’t know?” The couple plans to focus on Cheryl’s health and finding a security job for Billy Ray. Their future goal is to “give back to the ones who can’t fight for themselves.”