It's the cascade effect. She said, “Just look at me. You would think by the way that I look that I’ve been homeless for 20 years.” The reality is that Jeanine's fall into homelessness was about 5 years ago. A single mom put into unsafe situations which lead her to hard choices - a roof over their head or safety for her and her son. Before being faced with those options, she had a successful career and was paying on a home and had relationship with all its ups and downs.
Her story is similar to many. What happens is that it all starts with one thing, and then the snowball effect comes rolling down the hill. It is something that could happen to any of us. First an injury on the job and then payments can’t be made. Next you realize that because of the injury you can’t do very much, or in the same way you use to. Then the house gets taken, and your labeled disabled now. You come to realize you might never make the same amount of money again . Your husband or wife dies. Even more grief. You try and trust a new person and they show themselves to be unsafe. You send your child to stay with extended family in hopes of safety for them. Your alone, a car accident happens and your injured even more. Through doctor appointments and recovery you are trying to understand housing programs and benefits. You are trying to live on no money at all and make it in a cold, hungry world.
You work hard to get into housing programs that pats itself on the back for housing you, but meanwhile your now living in the boonies with physical limitations with no access to transportation, cleaning supplies, food, or any real support. You invite friends over that are willing to help and then while getting help it violates the program by having visitors and once again you get kicked back out on the streets.
Where do you go now? Jeanine is like many of our unhoused neighbors. Caught in a snowball effect and outside in the cold with nowhere to go. The day we took this picture we provided her with a tent and some blankets and encouragement as she moves forward into her foray once again into the homeless provider system while trying to stay warm on the streets. But we wish we had an answer for her time in between the solutions she is working and waiting on.
In Vancouver, you are only allowed to be in a tent from 9:30p - 6:30a - no matter how cold or wet it gets. She is now at risk of violating camping ordinances in a tent while she tries to stay safe. There are no sanctioned encampments where you can hunker down and stay warm and dry here close to services and appointments. The Navigation Center is a nice step in a good direction. It is available for a few people 7a-5pm daily. But, there is no place available 24 hours where rest and warmth and sleep can happen during the day or early evening for those people who work night shifts. Our elderly and otherwise vulnerable homeless population who just want to go to bed earlier than 9:30 when its cold all day and dark by 5 or 6pm.
Unfortunately, for now, there is no place legal to go and our hearts go out to those who are outside in this cold and wind this winter. May we all find solutions soon.
~ Adam & Ren
You can help unhoused neighbors in Vancouver. Donating for a specific person or project like the Severe Weather Shelter with a small recurring donation can help us continue this support for local unhoused resident projects and outreach.
Facing Homelessness Vancouver WA is a program of Outsiders Inn. Outsiders Inn is a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and can provide receipts for tax purposes.
original Facebook post here.