[Hpn] HOMELESS BUT NOT HELPLESS
William Charles Tinker
Sat, 22 May 2004 14:21:32 -0400
HOMELESS BUT NOT HELPLESS
By Pastor Kelly Boggs
May 22, 2004
"If life hands you lemons, make lemonade," an old adage encourages. A
father and daughter in Portland, Ore. have been squeezing every last
drop from the yellow citrus dumped into their lives a few years ago.
Thus far, rather than bitter, the result has been sweet.
For the past four years, Frank and his daughter, Ruth, would leave their
secluded domicile twice a week and venture a couple of miles to drop by
a bank, purchase groceries, and attend church. Sometimes they would stop
by a thrift store and buy clothes before returning to their humble home.
The aforementioned would not normally be noteworthy. However, in this
case, Frank and Ruth's home happened to be located somewhere within
Portland's densely wooded Forest Park and their dwelling consisted of a
lean-to situated near a small creek.
The father and daughter were recently spotted by a couple scouting for
new cross-country trails in the 5,000 acre park. Concerned for the
girl's safety, they contacted police. After a two-day search that
involved all-terrain vehicles, the duo was finally located.
When officers discovered Frank and Ruth's encampment, it was deserted.
Under a tarp-covered, wood-framed lean-to they found a Bible, a set of
old World Book Encyclopedias, sleeping bags, and assorted gardening
tools. A tilled vegetable garden and rope swing were nearby. A police
dog found the father and daughter hiding behind a tree about 50 yards
from the camp.
Frank told police he was 53 years old, a college graduate and Marine
Corps veteran who had served in Vietnam. He said he had moved to
Portland with his daughter from Tacoma, Wash., hoping to find work. When
attempts to find employment were unsuccessful, he was forced to live on
a $400-a-month disability check.
Frank said that he chose to live in the wooded confines of Forest Park,
rather than the streets, in order to shelter Ruth, who is 12, from
drugs, alcohol and violence. He also feared authorities would take his
daughter if their homelessness was discovered.
He described himself as a devout Christian and said he taught his
daughter using the Bible and the old encyclopedias. Frank also made sure
that he and Ruth attended church regularly.
The pair used water from a nearby creek to keep clean and to also fill a
small pool where they stored perishable foods. A tidy garden provided
After Frank and Ruth were taken into custody they were investigated by
officials. A pediatrician examined the girl and found no signs of
physical or sexual abuse. In fact, Ruth was even found to have no
cavities. A background check on Frank revealed a slate that was squeaky
What is most amazing about the tale of survival that emerged from Forest
Park is not the physical condition of the father and daughter. What most
impressed those who interacted with the pair was Ruth's social and
Officers stated "the girl was well-spoken beyond her years." She was
polite, sociable and articulate. After testing it was found that Ruth
reads at a 12th grade level and is academically advanced for her age.
Something else about Frank and Ruth that police and other officials
noticed was their relationship. It was evident they shared a deep love
and caring for each other. Their biggest concern was that they would be
In a day when a spoiled slacker mentality seems to pervade much of
America's youth and teacher's unions maintain that more money is the
answer to education woes, Ruth stands in stark contrast. Her tale is one
of unspoiled maturity and academic excellence forged in a forest.
Ruth may have lacked many of the distractions of American adolescence,
like television, electronic games, or a bevy of extracurricular
activities. However, whatever she lacked was more than made up for by a
devoted parent dedicated to equipping her with a solid educational
foundation as well as a strong character.
Frank took responsibility for preparing his daughter, academically and
socially, to face the world. Though the classroom was crude and the
educational tools limited, the commitment to the student was world
Ruth also received a foundation for faith from her father. Homelessness
did not keep Frank from worshipping God with a community of Christians.
While I am sure that he and Ruth frequently read from the Bible and
prayed often, Frank felt it a priority to attend church.
Frank also instilled a positive attitude in Ruth. In all the reports
about their four years in the forest, there is never a hint of
complaint. "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials," the
Bible exhorts. It would seem that Frank taught Ruth to do just that.
Father and daughter have been relocated to a horse farm outside of
Portland where they are living in a mobile home. Frank is working and
they are readjusting to the conveniences we all take for granted. And
now, instead of walking, they ride bicycles to church.
While Frank and Ruth have had their share of life's lemons, they have
responded by making the best lemonade possible. Got any lemons in your
life? Better start squeezing!
(C) 2004 Kelly Boggs - All Rights Reserved
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them
to become what they are capable of being."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe