Ron first moved to Portland in 2000, working a job loading and unloading furniture on and off trucks. He spent the next 13 years doing this, working for a truck driver friend.
While at a truck stop in Troutdale, 61-year-old Ron slipped and fell out of the truck, severely breaking his ankle in four places. He was rushed to the hospital, and five surgeries later, Ron’s savings were almost completely depleted.
“That’s what contributed to me being homeless. I was in the hospital for a while and wound up going through about $8,000 of savings.”
Ron found himself homeless, but he fortunately never actually had to sleep on the streets. Whether it was a “cheap, fleabag hotel” or temporary shelter through various organizations, he kept himself off the streets. But Ron was still without a home, and none of these short-term solutions were getting him the traction he needed to get his life back.
“One day I came to the Mission. I was eating here and heard someone talking about the Link program, so I put my name on the list just to see what it was.”
“I’ll tell you – it was the best thing that ever happened.”
Acceptance into the Link program meant that Ron would have a place to live – a warm bed, hot shower, and three meals a day – in addition to clean clothes, a secure locker for his belongings, and computer access to search for a job and housing. Because the Link program is 100% free of charge, Ron could also save any money that he made.
In exchange for these services, the Mission requires Link members to work 25 hours a week doing jobs that keep the facility running smoothly.
“I’m the janitor here. I wake up at 4:00 in the morning and clean from 5:30 to 8:00, and then again in the evening. I just do whatever needs to be done. I’ve been volunteering a lot on my free time, cleaning up some harder areas that I don’t need to do, but need to get cleaned up. Just because it needs to look good.”
Ron says that the Link program is the best program he’s ever seen, for many reasons.
“All you have to do here is do your job and show commitment to move forward in a positive way. You just have to stay sober and straight and do your job.”
I asked Ron what he would choose if he could have three wishes. The first wish, not surprisingly, was a place to call home.
“I want a place where I feel comfortable and don’t have to worry about the past few years of being in this situation. I’m 61-years-old. I want my next move to be a permanent one.”
Ron’s second wish was to grow in his faith.
“I’m a believer. Me and God are one on one with each other. I would like to become a little stronger in my faith, though. Sometimes I feel like I’m slipping. I don’t really do anything bad, but I’d like a little stronger faith.”
Finally, he wished that his family would be ok.
“I wish that my mother and brother and sister would have extremely good health in their later years. I haven’t seen them in many years, and I wish them the best.”
Read Ron: Part II here!