Homeless Holiday Perspective

This is the second half of a story first published in our November edition

Logan Knouse

Pioneer Hall hosts Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless. Photo courtesy of City of Ashland

I believe a lot of people forget that there are those in the world who, during festive seasons, don’t have a family, a home, a tree in the living room or lights illuminating the night. We pass by nameless people every single day, and most of us don’t bat an eye. While some homeless can be upfront, nagging, capable young people, the majority of the homeless are hidden from view and have very real and difficult stories.

My son’s been gone 20 years and my husband’s only been gone 6.”

On a particularly cold evening, under 30 degrees, Rogue News sought out the opinions of someone with personal experiences on the matter of homelessness. In downtown Ashland, right outside Martolli’s, a woman, heavily bundled, sat outside holding a sign reading ‘season’s greetings.’ Rogue News inquired if she’d be willing to talk about her experiences being homeless and she agreed.

This woman, Susie, was evicted from her home due to a new Oregon statute that put her mobile home in the same category as ‘floating homes.’ She was barely late on her rent to the mobile home park but was evicted. She spoke about the cold being hard on her, especially after breaking her collarbone, and mentioned how most of her friends, those who don’t qualify to sleep inside, don’t get enough food to keep warm through the night.

When asked what was difficult for her during the holidays, she responded, “I lost my firstborn son in an automobile accident right after graduation and then I lost my husband. My son’s been gone 20 years and my husband’s only been gone 6. I miss them during the holidays real bad.”

Susie also discussed stereotypes she observes. “The workers at the shelter are always saying to count the bowls because these people steal, and that’s not true. We’re just like everybody else, we’ve just fallen on circumstances,” she said. It was heartbreaking to hear. At a time centered on goodness and peace, people in our community continue to be stereotyped and ignored.

The state does help the homeless to an extent. They get fleece blankets and hats, cots on some nights, and the homeless shelters celebrate the holidays. “At pioneer hall, we had Thanksgiving dinner. And just last night, across from the Presbyterian Church, they had a Christmas tree up with wool socks on the giving tree. We all got to pick a pair. They do special things for us in the holiday season.” But homeless people are still on the streets when it’s cold, and they are still treated as lesser when no one wants to hear their stories.

Hers is a hard one to hear and was monumentally eye-opening for me. I can buy my decorations and peppermint lattes and I won’t think twice about it, but these people don’t have those opportunities and don’t get to experience this festive season like I do.

There isn’t a chance that, after hearing these experiences, I could ever go back to taking my situation for granted. I will always remember what Susie said: “For the grace of God, anyone might be in the same position as us.” It’s a blatant truth, and the world could stand to hear it more.