For the last 16 years, Clarence worked by day at a UPS distribution center and by night as a security guard – his way of ensuring he could meet the formidable rents prevalent in Southern California, though even with the extra work he was never able to save much.

For five years, he eased some of the burden by sharing an apartment with his brother and a friend.

About two years ago, his brother was hospitalized due to issues related to his diabetes and a heart condition. Clarence dedicated every spare moment to helping tend to his brother, keeping him connected with family.

Then, suddenly, his brother died – and just a few months later – their roommate was hospitalized.

Mentally and physically exhausted, Clarence faced the now crushing burden of covering rent payments typically shared by three people.

“He was my only brother out here in California,” Clarence said. “We were so close, always. We could just talk and talk about anything. We loved watching movies together and we loved ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ and when he would see me, he would shout ‘Blondie!’ because I liked the Clint Eastwood character. I can’t even think about a time when we argued.”

Clarence is not alone in his struggle. He’s one of more than 100 million Americans who have had their lives upended by medical debt. While Clarence got lucky and found affordable housing – many others face homelessness.

“The whole ordeal was tearing me down,” Clarence said. “After my brother passed and my roommate got sick, I just kept worrying ‘how will I ever get out of this?’”

Faced with the impossibility of keeping up with the rent, Clarence searched for a solution – and found it at the Mountain View apartments, National CORE’s new affordable housing community in Lake Forest.

“The feeling I got when I was approved for affordable housing is indescribable,” Clarence said. “I am so grateful to get this opportunity. It’s like a new chapter in my life has begun. The hurt and the pain are starting to go away.”

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Clarence ventured to California in 2004 with plans to build a family following his service in the U.S. Army Reserve. He married and raised two daughters, now ages 12 and 19, and a son, now 17; the couple divorced amicably in 2012 and have remained dedicated co-parents.

Still, his children and ex-wife have worried about him as he disengaged from his family – first to focus on his brother and then to deal with his grief.

Clarence said the transformative impact of his newfound living situation has not only alleviated the concerns of his family but has also rekindled meaningful connections with his children. Clarence’s new home is also walking distance to his ex-wife’s house, making it easier to visit his children.

“For a while, I didn’t see that my grief was costing me a relationship with my children. I would sleep most of my days off and ignore them when they visited,” Clarence said. “Now my family is happy for me. They’re not worried about me anymore and I’m spending more time with them and we’re enjoying ourselves.”

Clarence’s relocation to Mountain View has ignited a sense of optimism as he eagerly anticipates engaging in the community’s financial assistance programs, envisioning a future where he can bolster his savings and chart a course toward a secure retirement. It helps that his rent is about $1,000 less a month than when he was covering rent for three people.

An admitted history buff, Clarence said he is overjoyed that he will also now have time and money to kickstart his longtime hobby of reading about historical figures and events.

“I’m blown away at all the opportunities I now have after moving into this community,” Clarence said. “It’s so uplifting to hear that so many programs are available to people like me. It’s going to help me to be a better person.”