By Colleen Sinsky
I’m starting to learn that there are few things in the world that make me happier than seeing someone who I care about finally getting to transition from the streets into an apartment of their own. This week, my friend I’ll call June finally left her camping spot under a bridge in the Northwest Industrial area and spent her birthday weekend in her new apartment in a quiet suburb. I met June on one of my first nights doing outreach with Lio. I remember being terrified of her dog, who was barking and snarling at us from the end of a taut leash in the dark.I was surprised Lio didn’t just turn around at that point, but the three of us eventually sat down around Styrofoam cups of hot chocolate and started talking. Turns out that her dog was actually a terrified but adorable chocolate lab puppy named Little Bear who was thrilled to snuggle with a friendly stranger. From that initial meeting it took Quinn a few weeks of contacting landlords and submitting applications with June to finally find a safe place that she could afford on her limited social security income. During that time Quinn or I would spend an afternoon driving around trying to secure June and Little Bear an apartment in one of the buildings we’ve worked with. June and I bonded over our love of dogs and coffee, and how we both “escaped” from Southern California and love living in Portland- as different as our experiences have been here. June’s history blew me away, and I feel so lucky to have gotten to know her as well as I do.On Friday, Quinn and I took June and her puppy to sign her lease, pick up her key, and unload furniture and a brand new plush doggie bed I bought from Costco. I was happy that night knowing that June and Little Bear were sleeping in a safe place for the first time in years.I feel so privileged to get to play a small role in these success stories, and people like June help me stay optimistic and focused in the face of what sometimes seems like overwhelming need.
In honor of this being Martin Luther King Jr. Day(and why I get to write this from a trendy café on Alberta Street instead of the JOIN office) some words of wisdom from Dr. King:
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” (..and Little Bears!)