If you asked Lisa Ronquist about her life story 10 years ago, she wouldn’t tell you. She used to be the silent type; not because she chose to be an introvert but because that is what life on the street entails. Now at age 55, Ronquist has her own home, and will gladly tell you what life was like without a one. “I was homeless since I was 17,” said Ronquist. “I would jump from family’s house to family’s house, and friend’s house to friend’s house. That’s when I turned to alcohol. I would go out and party three days at a time.”
Even when her children came into her life, the partying continued. Ronquist said she would leave the kids at a family or friend’s house so she could go out and drink.
“It was because of my alcohol and pot that my children were taken from me.”
Ronquist struggled with alcoholism and was consistently homeless until Nov. 2007, when one day a San Marco outreach staff member recommended a room to her. Lisa moved into 212 the very next day.
San Marco is split into two sections. One wing has 30 permanent supportive single room units for the chemically dependent. The other wing has 40 units of supportive efficiency apartments for people with a history of homelessness.
“There is people here I can talk to and trust,” said Ronquist. “It was hard for me at first because of the wall I had up from living on the streets for so long. But I got in here and started trusting the staff, so to repay them I decided to sober up.”
Although she will always struggle with alcoholism, Ronquist does experience long periods of sobriety.
Unlike other supportive housing complexes for the chemically dependent, New San Marco residents are allowed to drink alcohol in moderation. Their idea is that getting some alcoholics to quit is near impossible, but it is possible to reduce the amount of harm they do to themselves.
If you get the chance to ask Ronquist what the most rewarding thing has been with a new start at New San Marco, she’ll give you a list: spending time with her children and grandchildren, having her own place, having people that now support her.
“I get to spend a lot of time with my grandchildren now. That wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t sober up,” said Ronquist.
She has an obvious sense to give back because of the empowering opportunity she has been given. Ronquist sobered up so she could become a grandmother to her son Tom’s children. Her money is used to buy them gifts like the coloring books that lay on her table.
“All I have to buy now is crayons,” she said.
Ronquist gives back by mentoring incoming residents at New San Marco. She even wants to help a neighbor. With the summer months approaching, Ronquist waits to help a woman she calls the Flower Lady.
“In summer I go across the street and help the Flower Lady plant gardens all around her house,” said Ronquist, as her smile grew bigger. “She’s pretty cool.”
Ronquist has an empty flowerpot on her windowsill right now. Rest assured, by summer time she will have a flower or two given to her by the Flower Lady across the street. Ronquist can always look out her window and see the work she put into that garden.