Poverty gets into your bones and rots your soul. It steals from you societal acceptance, health, and life. Homelessness is a never-ending search for resources, it's forever looking for the way out. Financial hardship can befall anyone.
Divorce, losing a job, experiencing an injury, being evicted, could you survive if one of these or all four happened to you? How long would you have your friends? How long till even your family is through helping you? Many of us are just one paycheck away from homelessness every month. Homelessness can happen overnight but can last for years. It all depends on the support you have in place and the resources you are aware of.
There is a shame and an unworthiness that surrounds those experiencing poverty and homelessness. The degradation of homelessness, the humiliation of poverty, I used to think they would never leave me. Society decides every day who is deserving and undeserving. Deeming the homeless undeserving.
I am the support services coordinator for Temporary Emergency Shelters of Forest Grove and Cornelius. I take information from people hoping to find resources to help them up. I have met some of the most wonderful people. We talk, laugh, and share stories. The elderly widowed husband, having exhausted all his resources, has made his way to our shelters. The couple relocating for a job, waiting for company funds to get into a place, they stay here. The young man who has had his heart broken one too many times, he is here. The elderly retiring into homelessness, they are here. So many with real stories: some of past drug use trying to climb their way back up from the muck and the mire; for the majority of our guests, life just kicked them in the teeth one too many times and getting up is hard. It is hard to battle the barriers of homelessness and thrive.
At our shelters, we are their cheerleaders, their caregivers, their meal providers and so much more, but for the most part, we are the ones who do not see them as "less than." We don't clump them into a category of "undeserving." We work together to provide a safe and stable overnight environment so they can get to a place where they are strong enough mentally, physically and emotionally to go on for another day.
If you are homeless and in need of overnight shelter, please call 503-926-0487.
Heidi Shepherd is the support services coordinator for the Forest Grove & Cornelius Temporary Emergency Shelters, which provide four nights per week of shelter for people in need from mid-November through March. Shelter nights are Mondays and Tuesdays at Forest Grove United Church of Christ and Wednesdays and Thursdays at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Cornelius.
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