As is true in Garalyn and Luke’s story, housing is the first step to stability.

Ten years ago, Garalyn was living in a trailer with her three kids on a reservation in Montana, working to expand services for her neighbors. Garalyn’s relentless belief in always doing what’s best for her family and her community led her to the place she is now.

Garalyn met her partner Luke as he was descending deeper into mental health challenges and addiction. They had started to build a life together, but soon everything changed. It became clear that Luke needed help, and he was accepted into a treatment program at the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest (NARA). He knew that it was the best option for his recovery. Meanwhile, misfortune struck the family, and their trailer was stolen. Without a home and with Luke hundreds of miles away, Garalyn packed everything into their van and started their journey to Portland.

Garalyn remembers paging through the Rose City Resource guide the first morning they arrived and calling every provider looking for help. She and her kids moved into a family shelter in east Portland, leaving every morning to find free breakfast programs and then to the neighborhood pools, so that their kids would have a sense of routine. They visited JOIN’s Day Space every day for showers and a place to reset.

While the family stayed in the shelter, Luke was thriving in his recovery program, and Garalyn was connected to JOIN for housing support. Through JOIN, they were able to begin laying roots for their family and building their community of support. Luke graduated from his program at NARA and soon after they got the call that JOIN had found an apartment for them.

Luke and Garalyn both smile brightly when recalling that phone call. They remember the emotion behind their move-in day: “the apartment was super empty, but we were so full of happiness and gratitude.”

Fast forward to the present, Garalyn and Luke have added to their family and moved to a home with a yard in a neighborhood for their children to run, play and grow. When asked what’s next, Garalyn and Luke felt settled– their goal is to save money and buy their home in the next five years. In reflection, Garalyn shared, “a lot of situations are bittersweet– the experience in Montana was bitter, but it led us to Portland and being connected to JOIN. Montana wasn’t intended for our family– being from a biracial background, our children never fit in. In Portland, everything came together to affirm we were meant to be here. Our children are rooted now, they are in the Head Start program and have the stability to make friends and feel like part of a community.”

Each day, JOIN is working with our neighbors experiencing homelessness, and every story is unique with its own set of strengths and challenges. As is true in Garalyn and Luke’s story, housing is the first step to stability.

“It felt like we had family here, everyone went above and beyond to develop a relationship. JOIN ensured that there was no way that our family would fall through the cracks.”