Our stories capture the voices of some of the people we have helped become independent. While these stories are both inspiring and heart-breaking, they demonstrate the true life situations that people in Portland are dealing with and how Outside In is doing its part to help.
“Rarely in life are we given the opportunity to return to the places and experiences in our lives that have helped shape who we have become. Not that long ago, I was young and homeless. It was a time defined by loneliness, scarcity, and fear. Outside In helped me by providing meals, housing, counseling, and medical care. But what I also desperately needed–and received–was the opportunity to form supportive and appropriate relationships with adults who I felt genuinely cared about me. I am happy to tell you that Outside In helped me transition out of homelessness for the last time.
Today, I am a college graduate, a successful professional, and served as a member of Outside In’s Board of Directors.”
It was 1969 when Morgan knocked on our door with a 10-month-old baby in her arms. After four years of homelessness, she received shelter the first day she came to Outside In. Once she was stabilized in housing and the new mother and her baby boy were safe, she set out to get a job. A new idea at the time, Morgan recalls, “I had never seen a resource board before! There, in black and white, were jobs!” Through that board, Morgan found a job at a food co-op, and was able to utilize Outside In’s medical clinic when her infant son got sick.
After 41 years, Morgan’s time at Outside In has stuck with her: “I have always listened to a person, I mean really listened, as the people at Outside In listened to me. Your staff taught me to empower myself. I like teaching that to others too.”
Gregor was born in Colombia and adopted by an American family. But when he came out of the closet at age 17, his family disowned him, forcing him out, because they considered his gayness a form of mental illness. He had nowhere to turn until he discovered Outside In. With positive support from staff members and volunteers and a place to live, he studied every week for his GED. Gregor pursued his dreams and was accepted to every college he applied to – New York University, Julliard, and the City University of New York. He got a job at Nordstrom once he finished his GED and then moved to New York City to attend college.
In 1988, Tineke was living under the Burnside Bridge. She needed to see a doctor, but was scared to go, afraid that she would be treated badly. When she arrived at the clinic, she recalls, “We were surprised to find people who simply wanted to help us stay healthier.” Though the interaction was brief (a doctor cleaned her cut, she then she received antibiotics and a bandage), she says the impact was great. “I think a seed was planted that if I did want to change the way I was living, there were kind people in the world that could help make that happen. This was a revolutionary concept to consider. I will never forget the lesson.”
Today, Tineke is in medical school at the National College of Natural Medicine and she volunteers several times a week at Outside In, providing medical care to patients.
At age 16, Alex found himself sleeping inside newspaper drop boxes. When he admitted to himself that his lifestyle was unsustainable, he came to Outside In for help. Alex worked with his case manager to obtain transitional housing and he got a job at a food shop in Pioneer Place. Today, Alex has a 3.5 GPA at Portland State University. He’s majoring in Communications and doing consulting work involving interpersonal communications in the workplace.
When most teenagers are going on first dates and doing homework, Emily was battling clinical depression. She even attempted suicide. Then, she was kicked out of her house. Bouncing between friends and other family members didn’t last long and Emily ended up on the streets. Luckily, Emily found Outside In. While living in transitional housing, she got a job and became a college student, working toward a degree in political science.
Today, Emily is an advocate for kids in her former situation. She used to call herself a “street kid,” but she says at Outside In, they didn’t think of her as a street kid, but rather as a “youth who lacked positive support and role models, in desperate need of being pointed in the right direction and given opportunities.”
Hali became homeless at 16. On the streets from 1991-1994, she was struggling with drug addiction and turned to survival sex. This negative pathway ended when she came in contact with Outside In. She was given an apartment, psychological and drug counseling, and was helped to get a job at Street Roots. For the first time in several years, Hali could see a doctor. She writes, “Outside In showed me the care that I wasn’t able to get from my mom or my family. If it weren’t for Outside In, I would probably be doing the same thing I had always done-selling myself for money, being used by men… Because of them, I got my self-esteem back.”
Today, Hali is clean and sober, happily married, and the proud mother of two boys. She’s in the process of becoming a substance abuse counselor, owns two homes in Oklahoma where she lives now, and with her husband and sons, she restores classic American cars for fun.
“I went through a tough period in my life. During that time I did not make very wise decisions and I was not thinking about how any of those choices and decisions would affect me in the future. My tattoos were a reminder of that time in my life. It is hard to look at yourself in the mirror and have a constant reminder every day.
I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Tattoo Removal Program at Outside In. To see the tattoos fade after each treatment is fabulous! Now when I look at myself I do not see that person from so long ago, I see me!”