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Opportunity House: Second Chances

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A second chance for someone can be the difference between new beginnings or setbacks, especially for the residents of San Joaquin County’s Women’s Center-Youth & Family Services or WCYFS, Opportunity House, a transitional living program that serves male and female youth from ages eighteen to twenty-two, and provides emergency shelter for youth ages 18 to 25. Elizabeth Sanchez, community engagement and education manager, recognizes this as she encounters some of the most vulnerable youth of the Stockton community. “We are the county’s primary provider for support to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, along with youth at risk or experiencing any form of homelessness or housing instability,” said Sanchez. Her job supports those trying to overcome difficult challenges in their lives, but what she didn’t expect was that on a cold February morning those difficult challenges would emerge from the housing where these youth reside.

On February 27, 2021, a mysterious fire began in the south corner of Opportunity House. Residents in the home detected the back of the house filing up with smoke. Fortunately, everyone had escaped safely, but the damage that was done created a sense of hopelessness. “We were devastated,” said Krista Fiser, CEO for the WCYFS. “We were already in the middle of finishing a remodel in the kitchen.” This would mean the residents would have to be uprooted and this was equally personal for her as she had experienced homelessness herself at an early age and could relate to having to relocate.

Fortunately, WCYFS’ community was able to temporarily move the residents to hotels and eventually to another temporary housing while the fire damage was assessed and repaired. But this would take time and extend over a year and seven months. Krista was assured that while the residents were rehoused, they would continue to receive support during the remodel. “Fortunately, temporary housing was very close to our main office so residents wouldn’t have to travel far,” she said. Services such as case management, mental and physical wellbeing, education and employment were all amenities that many of the residents would continue to receive. 

While Krista and Elizabeth were taking care of the emotional and physical wellbeing of the residents, Haggerty Construction was hired to assess the damage and rebuild. Jeff Booksher, manager for Restore for Haggerty Construction, shared that the goal of the restoration was to keep the integrity of the design to the age of the home and to restore the personal features. But in order to do that they needed to address the severity of the damage. “The biggest challenge to the project was securing the foundation,” he said. “The house had a crawl space and caught fire, which created quite a bit of damage. We had to have a company come and bring tractors to remove the entire foundation.” This would create a challenge as the entire home would have to be lifted; this would delay the remodel by adding an additional three months to the restoration. Fortunately, it was a challenge Haggerty Construction could manage. “Everything else was relatively seamless,” Jeff affirmed.

While the fire created a setback for the residents, Krista acknowledges it created a second chance to open up more space, and beds, in the house for future residents. Both Haggerty Construction and Krista agreed that the rebuild should match the age of the home. “We wanted to keep the same wood look and aesthetics of the home itself,” recalled Jeff, who oversaw the remodel along with the help, in its final months, from assistant superintendent Edgar Vasquez. While they kept to the integrity of the 1905 design, they also included some upgraded features such as new wood flooring, paint and a whole brand-new kitchen, mixing the Victorian features with a contemporary style. 

On September 7, the Opportunity House held a ribbon cutting ceremony and invited community members to visit the newly remodeled home. Krista Fiser was thrilled how it came together. “It took a lot of work, prayer and having faith that it would work out the way it was supposed to.” In addition, Elizabeth Sanchez loved the response from the residents. She recalls overhearing a conversation from some of the younger residents about which room would be theirs while she was giving a tour. “They felt like this was their house, and it was beautiful,” she said. “For some, they have never had a house nor a person to care for them. To see that they have that sense of belonging to something, that makes everything worth it.” 

Now Opportunity House, just like its residents, has had its second chance and continues to be that haven for other youth. In the last year, over 35 residents have made a stay in the facility and called it home.

If you would like to learn more about Opportunity House or how you can help make an impact in the lives of transitional youth, you can reach out at or visit their office on 620 N. San Joaquin Street in Stockton.

To learn more about Opportunity House or how you can help make an impact in the lives of transitional youth, reach out at or visit their office on 620 N. San Joaquin St., Stockton.