JOIN always inspires such a mix of emotions for me. I can feel sorrow, peace, frustration, anxiety and joy on any given day as I interact with our community. Human emotions are often laid bare here.
I help run JOIN’s basic services in our day space, “The House,” and I am continually reminded of how physically and emotionally taxing homelessness and poverty can be. The House can often be chaotic. New people looking for housing, regulars waiting for a shower, and people just looking for a safe place to rest all crowd into our small space. I’ve learned to focus on the person in front of me with single-minded intensity.
My friend Hank is facing the reality the he will go blind shortly unless he gets surgery on his corneas. Hank has no insurance. He doesn’t qualify for Oregon Health Plan. He is already $35,000 in debt. He spoke very casually about his predicament, perhaps because he has so many other health problems. He told me, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” I wonder if he will be able to navigate the lengthy appeals process for Social Security Disability in time to apply for OHP. We shall see. Despite the challenges his health poses, Hank is always eager to chat with me and often offers to help clean up our day space at the end of the day.
I’ve seen a spike in the number of families with children seeking housing services. It is so heartbreaking to see little kids who are worried about where they will sleep for the night. At the same time, small acts of kindness and beauty punctuate the community landscape here. One camper offers another a bus ticket after we have run out. People exchange tips on the best places to get meals. Morris, a JOIN regular, is so proud of the macramé bracelets he has been creating. A tiny kitten was recently a temporary resident of JOIN during the day. Scott and Angie’s cat had kittens, and we are helping to find a home for one of them. I make a point to wander upstairs periodically to join the crowd of admirers clustered around her. Scott and Angie have inquired about pet services, which can be difficult for low-income folks to get on a consistent basis. We are lucky to have a partnership with Pet Samaritan for our campers and their pets.
Jillian, House Coordinator