Help for homeless starts with hope
December 26, 2018
As I read about the $500,000 that will be available to the city of Sweet Home for those struggling to maintain their homes, I decided that I want to make several life-lesson observations. I am going to share these in a couple of story illustrations.
As a child, we were moved onto some property on the edge of a reservation. In a short period of time my mother noticed a trend with the reservation residents.
On the first of the month they received a government check that was cashed at a little tavern just off of the reservation. The tavern owner was so kind as to hold at least most of the money so the Indians could have some liquid recreations and the result was that the children suffered.
Because we were as poor as they, we could do little, but in an act of providence a year-round fruit stand started to give Mother fruits and vegetables that they could not sell. We separated these and canned all that we could and Mother started to share this blessing with the condition that the bottles be returned. We never lost a bottle.
At the same time, we saw the good efforts of the government in trying to help our new friends. Homes that were considered unlivable were replaced at no cost. Sadly, these homes soon fell into disrepair.
The reason was not that the tribe members were lazy, but because of a history of social privation, being rounded onto reservations with no ability to live their lives as independent people.
What once were a proud self-sustaining people had had their spirit killed. I am not saying that we, as a nation, were especially bad in that we treated these people some better than they were treated by another nation south of us.
The point that I want to make is that it could have been better – and a later experience in life helped me to understand this better.
My next lesson came when experiencing a great loss due to embezzlement of company funds, leaving me broke. I ended coming to the Portland area to get a job. I bought a condemned drug house in the Lents area, known as “Felony Flats,” an area with gang presence.
Immediately, a little African American boy came to my home, asking for work. We became friends and soon I fell in love with many/most of the kids in the area. I remodeled my little home over a couple of years with a lot of help from the kids and what I can say? As a result of that, not one of the girls got PG and we are friends to this day.
When I married my wife, she added her talents of gardening and over the next couple of years every home on the block was painted, yards were green with flowers. The community came together because someone cared.
I volunteered for some years with a feeding program in downtown Portland. I learned that the line between the haves and the have-nots is slim.
I generally today see two classes of people. One is the class of material getters with the perception that we need to survive and feel fulfilled.
Most often this forces different levels in this category of thought to live at just the edge of their income with little hope.
The line snaps and I have met many who were very successful people living on the streets for various reasons with no hope. They accept their lot in life and cannot see a way out or up.
When working with these people, I have come to believe that we can do a lot to help as a community. I believe that every life-marginalized person can be given the seed of a dream and I encourage the city management to carefully consider how they seed the dream in the lives of those they help.