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Even Quake Can’t Shake Some Elderly From Their Homes

October 26, 1989

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Be it ever so humble or earthquake-rumpled, there’s no place like home for Lucille Penn and hundreds of other displaced senior citizens.

Ms. Penn, 70, slept two nights in her car and three nights in a Red Cross shelter before one of the city’s swankiest hotels gave her a free home this week. But her heart is still at her home.

″I don’t want to be a guest somewhere. Your home is your identity,″ said Ms. Penn. ″When you’re up in years, anything else looks like too much effort at this point in the game. What else do you care about?″

Ms. Penn, who lives alone, is staying in one of 25 rooms donated to the Red Cross by the Stanford Court Hotel, which threw in complimentary breakfast and dinner and free local phone calls for their shaken guests. Rooms normally cost $180 to $300.

Ms. Penn is unsure how long repairs will take to her apartment in the hard- hit Marina district, which overlooks San Francisco Bay.

″You take it one day at a time. No, you take it one hour at a time,″ said Ms. Penn, who for five days wore a T-shirt that said: ″(Crap) happens ... and so do miracles.″

Providing for the special needs of the elderly is one of the city’s most demanding tasks in the recovery from a killer earthquake last week.

About 1,300 residents of the Marina are senior citizens, and some have adamantly refused to budge, even if their homes are unsafe or without gas and electricity.

Off-duty firefighters and other volunteers in vans have handed out bottled water, hot meals and cold sandwiches. They also deliver mail and presciption medicine, or ferry residents to locations where they can take a shower.

″They’ll survive this. They just don’t want to survive it outside their homes. It’s a lifetime of memories,″ said Kevin Shelley, who is coordinating city programs for the elderly from a shelter.

Retired school teacher Myrna Croce, 80, elected to stick it out at home with her sister. Their home wasn’t damaged, but they had no utilities for days and are still without electricity.

″They’d have to drag us out of here. Maybe we’re nuts. Maybe we’re peculiar,″ Mrs. Croce said. ″We’re just two old ladies with dirty feet, dirty hair, dirty teeth.″

″Where are we going to go? I’ve been in my house 39 years. Our lives are here,″ said neighbor Barbara Osario, 60.

Across the street, Frederick Giorgone, 74, said he stayed because he was afraid of looters. With no power to cook, he lived on bottled water, fruit and cold coffee.

″It’s my home. If it falls down with another earthquake, I’m going with it. I’ll go down with the ship,″ Giorgone said. ″We fought tooth and nail to stay here. They would have to take me out in handcuffs.″

A few of the elderly hid in their homes without knowing if the buildings were safe. An 89-year-old woman, who was found huddled behind her door, was one of several people removed by inspectors checking buildings for stability.

″The firemen heard a creak and kicked down the door and found her,″ Shelley said.

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