South Bay family struggles with hardship months after homicide

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) -- The hardship that follows a homicide, when a family gets past that initial loss of a loved one but still is figuring out how to live with that loss emotionally and financially, is something rarely seen.

KTVU sat down with the family of Richard Watkins, a South Bay who was fatally shot last September.

The incident happened on their grandparents' doorstep as they waited for a relative to park.

"In a split second, my entire life completely changed," said Malia Watkins.

Watkins lost her husband that day, her best friend, the sole provider for her family. Richard Watkins was gunned down, the apparently random victim of a drive-by.

"People don't think about having to listen to your kids cry and ask you questions why this happened. And I don't have the answers," Watkins said.

In the time since, Watkins has given birth to their third child, a boy named Kai. She went back to school to become a medical assistant, and for the first time she got a driver's license.

But some things have been more difficult than others. The family hasn't been able to find subsidized housing.

"It seems like everywhere we turn, we're kind of hitting a brick wall," explained Watkins.

The family has been getting help through Santa Clara County's Victim Witness Assistance Program, but that doesn't help when housing wait lists are long.

"Bureaucracy is what it is. It doesn't change just because you're going through a grief," said Victim Witness Assistance Program director Kasey Halcon. "And we don't have at this point in our community, priority lines or priority waiting lists for people who have been victims of homicide. Other communities do, but Santa Clara doesn't yet."

San Jose officials say there are 22,000 people on the Section 8 waiting list in the South Bay. There are often no rental units available, even for those who have vouchers.

"There's so many people in need right now that all the sources are nearly tapped out," said Ray Bramson, Homeless Response Manager for the City of San Jose.

Watkins hopes to draw attention to the problems victims of crime are facing.

"There's a lot of people out there going that are through what I'm going through. This isn't just me. And we need help," Watkins said.

And though she says her life was shattered that day, she's working had to pick up the pieces.

"I have more of a drive to make sure I succeed. And you know, the people who took my husband away from me, they robbed me. But I'm not going to let them rob me of everything," she said.

Six people have been charged with Richard Watkins murder. A preliminary hearing has been set for June 1st.

In the meantime, Malia Watkins says she's putting her family on every housing waiting list she can, looking at options in other counties and hoping for a miracle.

Anyone who'd like to help can contact Victim Witness Assistance at 408-295-2656 or email at Interested parties can also donate to a fund to help the Watkins family set up by police at this website