Three months ago, Steve was spending his nights in a field in rural Washington County. When his wife passed away from cancer seven years before, things started to unravel for him, leading to years of homelessness. A medical condition prevented him from working and he found it difficult to be around other people. “I spent a long time being by myself in the field, depressed.”
Then in one month, Steve’s life completely changed. It started with a visit to his adult son in Forest Grove. “’I don't want to be here anymore’” Steve told him. “I wanted to commit suicide. He made me realize how important was to be a father again.” Steve started visiting his son more regularly, until he decided to find a place to live in the area. He realized that finding a home was the first step in creating stability for himself and repairing his life.
Taking the first step
Around that time Steve met another unhoused person at Open Door who told him about an encampment in Forest Grove, where he discovered a good friend was also living. Steve moved there to start his transition back to society. Living in the camp was helpful for Steve, helping him to relearn how to live and work with people. Within the first two weeks he intervened in an emergency situation that likely saved several campers’ lives.
A week after moving to the camp Steve received a flyer about a housing fair at Open Door. Though the line was long and demand was high, with persistence Steve managed to get signed up for a regional long-term rent assistance voucher, paid for by Metro’s supportive housing services fund. He was assigned to housing caseworker Michael Davis at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization. Both Open Door and IRCO’s housing case management and outreach work are also supported by the Metro fund.
Finding housing in Washington County’s hot housing market was a challenge initially. The first two apartments Steve looked at were rented within minutes of the application opening. With Michael’s help, Steve was able to move quickly on the next apartment he looked at and submit his application before anyone else. Michael worked after hours to make sure the application was processed and the property managers had everything they needed, and Steve was approved for the apartment.
Repairing his life
Several months after moving into his new home, Steve's transition is going well and he is happy. He has built two Harley-Davidson motorcycles from scratch in his living room and is planning on a taking one on a road trip. He is still working on getting approved for disability and is doing odd jobs.
He told Michael recently that the housing program did not just provide housing for him – it saved his life. “He told me he was going to end his life the week he met me,” Michael said, “but after he met me, I gave him enough hope to keep going and now he is thriving.”
Steve reflected, “I'm just glad I tried to make an effort. I'm thankful I got a housing voucher.” He plans to maintain his housing and break the cycle of homelessness for good. Of Michael he said, “I can't be more thankful for him. He's been a good guy.”