Oregon City - June 2020
Desperation laced with hope was the prevalent tone of Tuesday night’s event. 27 neighbors were able to wash their clothes and bedding (1,830 pounds worth). We shared hygiene supplies, snacks and bottled water with our friends, our community.
Laundry nights are my favorite because they give me the opportunity to spend time with some of the most sincere, caring and compassionate souls I’ve ever met. And I’m not talking about our volunteers, although that does describe them as well.
Two neighbors who became homeless in the last six months or so are struggling intensely with navigating an entirely different existence. Finding a “safe” place to sleep is basically impossible. They have pursued housing resources but due to need exceeding availability, there is little hope they will find something soon. They’ve shared with us their fears of engaging with law enforcement. The feeling of not having a voice because they lack the “credibility” of having an address. Of being perceived as “less than” because they have to fit their lives into bags and carry them on their backs. Both of these neighbors go out of their way to not stand out in appearance, to maintain employment, to avoid trouble. Last night, when I said hello and mentioned I’d missed seeing them the last few weeks, B told me he’d spent two weeks in the hospital because he had a breakdown. He’s so desperate to not be homeless he literally couldn’t take it anymore. He is actively pursuing available resources and working to get himself out of his current circumstances and he needs help.
Another neighbor arrived feeling so bad about lashing out at a friend that they asked us to call the police so they could be arrested because, “at least then I would have food and a place to sleep.”
One of our neighbors couldn’t be with us last night because they broke their leg, had surgery, and were discharged to recover/rehabilitate in their (literal) cave.
A neighbor reported that his wallet, which he’d lost more than a month ago, was found and returned to him - fully intact. You’d better believe we celebrated that miracle. Replacing identification is a headache on it’s own, and it’s extraordinarily difficult when a person is unhoused and without transportation, not to mention we’re in the midst of a pandemic.
A family we’ve worked with for the last year has managed to hold onto their housing and dad is still working. It’s a joy for us to be able to help provide clean clothes because everyone should have them. And because it means this friend can go to work unafraid of standing out among his co-workers.
We see amazing examples of neighbors advocating for one another, checking in on each other, laughing and connecting and being the kinds of neighbors I think many people wish they had. I desperately wish more people could experience this life, to really understand the joy that comes from a genuine smile, the caring concern from a neighbor, and the incredible generosity that happens at the laundromat.
And last but certainly not least, we were joined by Alex, who brought homemade masks, snacks and food resource information to share. Thank you, Alex! We’re so happy to have your help. To Tom, Jo and Teresa - thank you for showing up every month, loving your neighbors and making a difference.
PS: We received special requests for reflective vests, a pair of men’s size 9 tennis shoes, and 29" bike tires and tubes. We could also use bottled water - when the weather is warm, we go through about 48 bottles at an event. Thank you!