Eugenia has been coming to Redbarn for a few months with her son, Aaron. She is in her sixties and disabled, able to walk slowly only with a walker. They had been staying by a barber shop (with permission) most nights to keep out of the rain. Last month, a policeman approached them and told them they had to vacate the premises, because even with permission they are not allowed to camp. She responded sweetly, because that’s the kind of person she is, but the officer insisted that she was not excluded from the city of Gresham for thirty days. If he found her in Gresham, for any reason, he would arrest her.
She was in contact with all the agencies that might be able to get her housing or help, but the waiting lists are long and there is months before they will get to her.
That evening she came to Redbarn literally shaking. She didn’t think that she could take care of her dogs without a regular place to stay, without Anawim providing support with the day shelter. I told her that the police officer couldn’t legally exclude her from the city. That he didn’t actually give her a ticket, just a threat.
But for the last few weeks, her health deteriorated. She started staying overnight in Portland, and then returning to Gresham during the day, and the extra travel took it out of her. Last Saturday her legs were bloated and she couldn’t keep her eyes open, exhausted. I spoke with her, but she couldn’t focus on the conversation. A couple people noticed her condition and offered to take her to the hospital, but she refused, saying that she would be okay, she just needed to sleep. She left our facility walking slowly, with her son and dogs in tow.
She only made it about a half mile away from Redbarn before she collapsed from her exhaustion and died.
I write this for all the grandmothers who are desperately trying to get off the street, but can’t seem to find a way. I know of a couple that were snatched from death, but just as many who didn’t make it. Disabled people should be gotten off the street. Today.