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Locals fix up trailer for homeless man to call home with the help of community donations.

DESIREE BERGSTROM/MADRAS PIONEER - Melissa Wheeler, left, and Michelle Valentine, right, spent a week fixing up a donated camp trailer to give Rod Sanders a place to live after he spent two and a half years living on the streets. To learn more, check out the story on page A10.
It's cold outside. It's winter, so that makes sense, but what doesn't often cross the minds of people as they bundle up to brave the low temperatures for a few minutes before hopping into their car or running into the store or work is that for some in our community, there is no escaping the winter air — they live there with nowhere to go.

Michelle Valentine and Melissa Wheeler are working to change that. Once homeless herself and knowing what it can mean to simply receive a winter coat, Valentine is now working to help out others who she knows are still on the street.

In December someone donated a camping trailer to Valentine that was in need of some repairs and cleaning up; however, the "bones" of the trailer were solid and she immediately knew just who she wanted to fix the trailer up for — a man who had helped her while she was on the streets a little over a year ago — Rod Sanders.

"You ever slept out in the snow with no blanket or nothing? I have. This (trailer) is beyond believable," Sanders said.

"He'll be warm," Wheeler said, adding that the pair wants to continue projects like these to help more people get off the street.

"We want to keep on doing this for the people that need it and deserve it," she said.

"These girls are awesome," Sanders said.

Valentine met Sanders when she was homeless.

"I was in a bad relationship and the guy beat me up," she said. "The only person to come check on me were these two," Valentine said, pointing to Wheeler and Sanders.

Sanders said he has been without a place to stay for about two and a half years.

"What happened is my wife died," and he really kind of fell apart, he said. "I lost my house, my pickup, my wife, my job, my everything. But I'm going to get it back."

"It means everything," he said, looking around at the trailer. "I thank God and I thank these girls."

"Most people don't know what actually being homeless is," he said, describing what it feels like to be out there, trying to sleep in freezing temperatures. He said the cold aside, there are other challenges like people stealing things when you go somewhere or trying to figure out what to do in the rain.

Sanders is certainly on his way to getting some of the things he lost when his wife died back — he now has a place to stay and a job that starts soon.

"I'll live here the rest of my life," said Sanders.

"Send God a prayer," Sanders said, when you're facing difficult times. "I was wishing for something like this. I can't believe it."

The three all agreed that there is a high population of homeless in Madras and the shelter is great, but it closes during the day and it's still cold outside.

"We are trying to work against the problem," Valentine said.

They don't want homeless people to feel less than others — they are people, the same as everyone else, they all agreed.

Going forward, Valentine said they have a list of people who they want to help. They just need to find more trailers.

For this project, everything was donated by community members or businesses. Discount Carpet in Madras donated all of the new carpet and is willing to donate more, enough for one project a month if Valentine and Wheeler can find the projects.

The pair is also happy to help others fix up spaces for those in need of a warm place to stay.

To find out more about how to help or to donate, call Michelle Valentine at 541-325-2341.


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