[Hpn] Homeless CAMPERS lack resources in Eastern Oregon USA FWD
Sun, 12 Nov 2000 13:41:16 -0800 (PST)
* Are most police where you live "friends to homeless people"?
* What might explain the sudden spate of news about "compassionate cops"?
Hermiston OR Police Chief Andy Anderson said of homeless people there:
"[W]e really don't bother them much unless they cause a problem."
FWD Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Nov 01, 2000
EASTERN OREGON COMMUNITIES FACE LACK OF RESOURCES FOR HOMELESS
By HEIDI SODERSTROM
PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) _ The campfire leaps and crackles in the
crisp air, creating shadows on the ground. The shadows become real
people huddled by the fire.
They are a part of the homeless culture in eastern Oregon.
Yes, homelessness is here, and the shadows of John Forcum and
Dusty Murphy only begin to give light to the issue.
``We're living out of our car until we can find something,''
The couple, who live out of a beat-up van, are staying at Sand
Station for a few days, an Army Corps of Engineers park northeast
of Hermiston. People are allowed to stay 14 days at no cost.
Forcum and Murphy are part of an estimated 50 homeless people
each month who go through the Agape House, a food and clothing
non-profit distribution center.
``We see two or three families and individuals that are homeless
every day,'' said John Thurlow, director of the Agape House. ``The
homeless issue is very much here. It's not just a Portland
``Of the 470 families we see per month, which is 30 families
more per month than last year, 10 percent or more are homeless.
It's probably more than 10 percent,'' Thurlow said.
And that's just in Hermiston.
St. Mary's Outreach Program in Pendleton provides food to about
half a dozen transients a month and gives monetary support to
Helping Hands, an agency that helps with housing.
La Grande's Salvation Army helps at least six families a month,
said Darlene Hollingshead, a social service worker.
``It is an issue; it can't be ignored,'' she said.
Yet, according to those close to the issue, the homeless problem
is largely ignored in the region.
``This community is very ignorant,'' said Mike, a homeless man
who declined to give his last name and hopes to settle in
Mike and Mary, his companion, have been living in their car off
and on for six months, and traveling from place to place for more
than two years.
``Small town, small minds,'' he said. ``They really can't fathom
how someone would end up like us.''
For those who wander the streets in eastern Oregon, there is
little available in the way of housing. No shelters are available
except in Pasco and Walla Walla.
It's illegal to sleep in parks in many large cities. The
Hermiston and Pendleton police departments, as well as in La
Grande, try to direct homeless people to places where help might be
``We direct them to the Salvation Army,'' said Pendleton Police
Chief Gary Ward. ``That's how we've done it, along with the
churches in the area.''
Hermiston Police Chief Andy Anderson said homeless people don't
want help from the police for the most part.
``If they do come to us, they're in dire need, and in that case
we direct them to the Agape House,'' Anderson said.
``But we really don't bother them much unless they cause a
problem. They seem to be our forgotten few, either because of
society's lack of concern, or it's their preference.''
Forcum and Murphy spend the days hunting for cans and bottles to
cover the cost of gasoline. Food stamps buy a little food, but they
agree it is not enough.
And while a monthly visit to the Agape House for groceries
helps, they said it doesn't quite cut it. But with 470 families to
feed and clothe and with the number growing by 7 percent each year,
there is not always enough to go around.
``There are people living under the bridge, in their cars, and
at least one a day comes in for a shower,'' Thurlow said. ``We
furnish the soap, shampoo, towel. That's the one thing we can do
every day. It's impossible to meet every need all the time.''
So impossible, in fact, that Thurlow said he is faced with
shutting down the Agape House if the surrounding community does not
give more assistance soon.
``Our client base continues to grow, but our funds to operate
have not. This has placed us in need of financial support,'' he
In order to remain open beyond Nov. 22, the budget requires at
least $7,000 for each of the next three months.
The Free Food Program operated out of various churches in the
Hermiston area may also be in danger.
Right now, those in need can get at least one meal five times a
week, thanks to volunteers. The program began about nine years ago
through the United Methodist Church.
Hermiston is not the only town with programs to feed the poor.
Most towns do something to alleviate need in their communities.
In Irrigon, the Irrigon-Boardman Emergency Center acts as a
distribution center for food and clothing.
People in Pendleton usually are directed through the Salvation
Army office, but workers at St. Mary's Outreach said they see at
least half a dozen homeless a month.
La Grande's Salvation Army is also where the greater portion of
needy people are directed in that area. The same with Baker City.
But most of these centers are only open in the daytime. There is
no place for the homeless and abandoned to stay. The closest
shelters are the Union Gospel Mission in Pasco and the Christian
Aide Center in Walla Walla.
Agape House started out as a shelter, but liability insurance
and having to pay someone to be at the site around the clock was
too much for their budget.
``I don't know what the answer is for these homeless,'' Thurlow
said. ``Some of it is their own choosing, but not all of it. Some
of it is domestic violence. I think sometimes people get so
discouraged that they give up, which is an issue of hope,'' he
Received Id AP10030697392635 on Nov 01 2000 13:51
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