When Jame'e Brazie'r moved back to his San Mateo hometown in 2009 after living on the East Coast, he didn't have a job or a home.
He managed to find a job in retail, but that didn't pay enough for him to get his own apartment. He spent hours on the phone with potential landlords, scouring Craigslist ads and looking in newspapers with no luck.
It wasn't until he received a card from the Samaritan House for the Peninsula Station Affordable Housing, located at 2905 S. El Camino Real in San Mateo, that Brazie'r thought he may have found a real solution.
He entered into the lottery system and -- thanks to what he calls pure luck -- was one of only a handful of candidates selected to live in a one-bedroom apartment there. He moved in to the unit in September 2010, and has been living there ever since.
But many low-income San Mateo County residents aren't so lucky.
That's why the county on Tuesday unveiled a free web-based service that promises to transform the way people find housing in San Mateo County.
The free service, www.SMCHousingSearch.org, provides renters, landlords, housing professionals and anyone with access to a computer, tablet or smart phone access to real-time information about rental housing ranging from subsidized to market rate.
"A lot of folks spend hours, days, weeks, looking for a place to live," Joshua Hugg, program manager for the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the Peninsula Station.
"It's a lot of time, a lot of phone calls," he added.
San Mateo City Councilmember and former mayor Jack Matthews was also on hand to welcome the new service for residents.
"The search for housing is really difficult," Matthews said. "We've been working very hard over the years to provide housing for our residents. These units are not enough," he added of the Peninsula Station, which houses 63 families. "We need more."
The website service is provided by the San Mateo County Housing Authority and the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, with contributions from a variety of community agencies and local business sponsors.
And what does Brazie'r think of the new service? He loves it.
"It was not an easy process for me to find a place to live," he said. "I wish the website had existed when I was looking."
Brazie'r added that he's often asked by other residents how they can find affordable places to live in San Mateo County.
"Now I can tell them to go to this website," Brazie'r said. "It's so helpful."