Amber, UCAN’s Josephine County Housing Supervisor, has met many individuals who have had hard lives living on the streets. Many have suffered deep trauma having spent time without a safe place to sleep. They can have trouble with basic life skills, and have difficulty connecting with others.
The first night Carl stayed at the warming center, it seemed he had only recently lost his housing. Though he needed a cane to get around, and was pretty frail, he was kind to everyone who he talked to, and enjoyed telling a good joke or two. This wasn’t someone who wanted to shy away from others. Indeed, his good spirits were contagious.
Amber recalls the first time she met with Carl to see if other programs might be a good fit for him, beyond shelter and food. He began by deflecting talk about his own needs, telling her he was concerned about a gentleman that was sitting silently in the back, mumbling to himself. Only after Amber gently turned the conversation back to him that Carl admitted that he’d been living out of his car for 30 years. That he had several medical conditions, and couldn’t work because he was disabled.
Amber was stunned. How could someone who had lived in a car for years, who was 70 and so frail, still be in good spirits? Concerned that Carl needed more long-term shelter to survive the winter, Amber reached out to various landlords who work with UCAN to lease to those with poor rental histories. Within a few days, Amber found a unit that Carl could move into.
Amber helped Carl move in and get rent assistance so he only needed to pay a small amount of his Social Security Disability to lease the unit. She met with him regularly, helping him to meet other needs. Sadly, after living in his new unit for several months, he began having memory issues. But by this time he had reconnected with a brother, and his brother was able to get him moved into a memory care unit.
Amber doesn’t know what forced Carl to lose his home in the first place. It really doesn’t matter to her. What she knows is that he mattered, and she’s pretty sure that Carl really appreciated how much she valued her time with him.