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November 28, 2004

Working mom thankful for help with move-in costs Deaf son, 11, enjoys his own bedroom after week at school

From: San Francisco Chronicle - San Francisco,CA,USA - Nov 28, 2004

- Kelly St. John, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, November 28, 2004

Katherine Kray's high blood pressure has dropped. She sleeps restfully through the night. And nothing puts a bigger smile on her face than watching her 11-year-old son, Jordan, gleefully shut the door of his bedroom - - the first room of his own he's ever had.

"A simple thing can change a person's life," said Kray, standing in the living room of her new apartment on a safe, quiet Oakland street. "It's an amazing thing."

Three months ago, Kray was desperate to move. After spending years sharing a two-bedroom apartment with six people, Kray and Jordan -- who is deaf -- had moved into a one-bedroom apartment.

But their new home was in a rough neighborhood. Kray's car window got smashed, Jordan's bike was stolen, and there was a shooting down the street. Kray was worried about their safety and wanted Jordan to have the sense of privacy an adolescent boy wants.

Kray has a steady job, working in human resources at a Whole Foods store in San Rafael. But as a single parent in the tough Bay Area economy, she was having trouble saving up a rental deposit -- plus first and last month's rent -- so she and Jordan could move.

Then, Kray learned The San Francisco Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund could help her. They jumped at the chance to move.

"I had filled out every form you could for low-income housing, but I could never qualify, because I never fit into the so-called income guidelines, because I work full time," Kray said. "This is the first time since my son was born that I have received help from a program. We're so grateful."

During the week, Jordan stays in the overnight program at the School for the Deaf in Fremont. Jordan, who was born deaf but not diagnosed until age 2 1/2, has a severe language delay, and needs the intensity of a residential setting to get more practice on his sign language, his mother said. But at school, Jordan has a roommate. When he comes home on weekends, he likes to slam the door just for fun -- because he can, she said.

"The day we saw this apartment, he packed up his stuff before we even knew we could move in," Kray said, as Jordan intently played the "Sims" computer game. He paused long enough to smile and sign, "Yes, I like my room," before jumping back into his computer game.

Kray said she wants Season of Sharing donors to know that the program has changed their lives. Her doctor even noted at her last checkup that her blood pressure had fallen.

"For the first time in a long time, I sleep through the night," Kray said. "I feel like because I got help, it makes me want to help people. It's just a blessing."

E-mail Kelly St. John at

©2004 San Francisco Chronicle