“It’s okay to use public services. You’re not going to be downed or criticized for using services—that’s what they’re there for. And if you meet their expectations, just go for it.”

Location: San Mateo County

Danielle thinks often about leaving her home in Daly City, just outside of San Francisco, and its notoriously high cost of living. For her large family—four children ages 2 to 12—it could make financial sense to move somewhere else, like Texas, where her brother-in-law pays half as much in rent for a similar home. 

But uprooting isn’t easy. Danielle was born and raised in the Bay Area, and her children’s father is part of a large family and connected Asian-Pacific Islander community. She’s been at her job for 11 years, with increasing roles and responsibilities. But it just isn’t enough in an area where everything, from rent to taxes to groceries, is expensive.

Danielle first used public services when she was pregnant with her oldest child and qualified for MediCal. All of her children continued to be covered by MediCal. WIC, too, has helped her family with the expenses of formula and baby food when her children were very young. 

The most helpful service has been a housing support program called Moving-to-Work. It has subsidized Danielle’s rent, making it feasible for her family to afford a house that’s large enough, as well as provided case management services and incentives that have helped her navigate her finances and move ahead in her career. 

That being said, the program hasn’t enabled her to escape the Bay Area housing crisis. While she describes being accepted into the program as getting a “golden ticket,” Danielle is ending the program shortly before the 5-year limit. When her landlord asked them to move out so his grandson could move in, Danielle could only afford the costs of moving and a new place if she moved in with two other adults, her nephew and her children’s father. But, adding their additional incomes to her housing voucher would lower her subsidy too much for it to make a difference. They’re now combining their three incomes to cover market-rate rent on a 4-bedroom house.

Though she has faced some lack of understanding from family members about her willingness to use public services, Danielle sees it as a straightforward choice, necessary for someone who works hard but still can’t afford the high costs of rent and healthcare. She only wishes that more services took into account high cost of living to make them accessible to people living in the Bay Area.

Get to know Danielle

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Danielle introduces herself.

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Danielle talks about how expensive the Bay Area is—but moving is not an easy option.

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Danielle explains why changing eligibility for services is much needed—especially in the Bay Area.


Feelings about having to use and using services


“I was starting to save to buy a house when we had to move again.” Despite that, the long, complicated eligibility process kept Danielle from continuing her housing program.

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Public service eligibility

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MediCal was the most challenging for Danielle because they ask for so much information.

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Danielle says WIC is easy if you already have MediCal.

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Not qualifying for food stamps is upsetting, because it would help Danielle make ends meet in the expensive Bay Area.


Using public services


WIC was great for formula, but the challenges of shopping at the right stores and having to deal with people in line made it too hard for food.

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Early Learning

Danielle was able to enroll all her kids in quality early learning and it made all the difference.

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A housing program, Moving to Work, has helped Danielle’s family survive the Bay Area’s housing market.

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Moving to Work has helped Danielle set financial goals and improve her employment situation.

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Ideas for Change

Danielle having one Case Manager that would know your situation and different needs would make a difference.