A resident stand in front of The Village on Sage Street
With no job and no transportation, Alfonso Surles was struggling with homelessness, until The Village on Sage Street helped him get back on his feet. Photo by Eric Marks

Alfonso Surles, a 58-year-old lodger of VOA’s The Village on Sage Street, is no stranger to homelessness: Before living at The Village, he had been struggling with homelessness for the last seven years. 

“What happened is that the buses were on strike. I’d get off work at 5:30 p.m. and sometimes it would take four hours to get home. So it was kind of hard. A lot of people lost their jobs over that because they weren’t able to get to work.” Alfonso Surles, resident at the village on sage street

Living at The Village is a world of difference. “It’s great,” he says. “I have a TV, a refrigerator, so everything else is good.”

Surles grew up in Virginia City. He moved to California, where he struggled with homelessness and finding a stable job. After moving back to Reno, Surles was eventually able to get a job at a gas station, but when RTC drivers went on strike last year, he faced long bus rides and unpredictable schedules.

“What happened is that the buses were on strike,” he says. “I’d get off work at 5:30 p.m. and sometimes it would take four hours to get home. So it was kind of hard. A lot of people lost their jobs over that because they weren’t able to get to work.”

Eventually, Surles had to leave his job since he had no reliable transportation. With no job and no transportation, getting back on his feet could have proven difficult if not for the help of The Village. Surles had been living at VOA’s shelter at the time, but was able to get into a unit at The Village with the help of management, who also helped him access a pension from a previous job.

“I couldn’t afford regular housing in Reno, but I was working, and so I was able to pay my rent here. And now I get my pension, so that’s good,” he says.

This kind of affordable housing is important for the community, says Devin McFarland-Pinon, Community Administrator for VOA’s The Village. “Housing such as the Village on Sage Street offers a unique opportunity to those who are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of rent. By keeping our rents around $400/month, we allow individuals to realign themselves with their finances. Whether someone is a student, on fixed income, or paying down personal debts, our low rent allows them to focus on saving and any other personal goals they may want to achieve.”

Surles is now focused on saving money, and is taking life one day at a time. But he wouldn’t be able to do that without the help of VOA’s The Village on Sage Street, especially after losing his job.

“It makes me feel good,” he says.

For now, Surles is happy to recover his finances after years of uncertainty. Now, thanks to affordable living at The Village, he can do that. He credits it to the management there, who gave him a safe place to stay, assisted him with his income, and now lets him live comfortably while growing his savings.

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