Resources help people. With the right support, there are people who will begin to get where they need to go.
I’ve been in wrong situations, where step after step there’s something blocking me—something going wrong. Here at Outside In, I’ve had the right resources where I’m able to figure it out for the first time. And now life is flowing. It feels like I have a spark, something to look forward to that’s new to me. I’m excited. I’m happy. I’m smiling about it! I’m more stable because I have the safety of a home. Not long ago, things were different.
I’m 23, I’m from Chicago, and I’ve lived and worked in seven different cities over the last few years. I’ve transferred from state-funded trade schools and held food service jobs since high school. When my roommates suddenly moved out, I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own, so I decided to move in with family. I lived with one sister, and then another. Not all my experiences were bad, but some were not healthy. The lifestyle fit wasn’t right, and it wasn’t sustainable. I never thought I’d be homeless, but I found myself in very toxic environments and knew I had to get out.
At that point I didn’t have any other prospects, and in the time of COVID, I knew homelessness was going to be even worse. My best friend lived in Portland, so decided to move here a year ago. I still didn’t have a place to live, so I was staying in a shelter. You can think whatever you want, but until you’ve been through it yourself, you don’t really know. People say, “Why don’t you get a job?” I was working. I’ve been working this whole time. Working and being homeless is hard. There’s no peace of mind. You’re always around people, and you don’t have a chance to recharge. I was burned out and it was hard to keep going.
It was scary at first. It didn’t feel real. But I got all my help in one building. It makes me feel supported.
Outside In offered different options. I don’t think people realize access to health care is not the same everywhere. Any other place I’ve lived, getting insurance, paying for it, and working to get it was way challenging. Just to get information you had to call on the phone and wait—day in, day out. At Outside In, on my second day here, they helped me get set up with health insurance.
I got to move into Outside In’s transitional housing program a few weeks ago. It’s an adjustment because I’ve never had my own space. I had to prioritize my mental health. It was scary at first. It didn’t feel real. But I got all my help in one building. My therapist is in the basement and the medical clinic is on the first floor. If health problems come up, my providers are right there. They are all accommodating. It makes me feel supported.
No two stories are the same. But resources help people. With the right support, there are people who will go where they need to go. Outside In has been that resource for me.
Beyond just my physical and mental health, I’m working on my goals. I’m learning to cook and to sew. I have to learn to be by myself, to live life. It has gotten better. I’ve been working with the staff at Outside In’s Employment and Education Resource Center. I’ve gotten internships and job readiness training. Staff helped me with filling out financial aid forms, securing books and supplies, and registering for classes at Portland Community College. I’m taking a medical coding program—my first classes are anatomy and physiology. I want to get my foot in the door for a medical career. I’m looking forward to taking art and swimming classes, too. I’m just figuring it out, but I’m excited. I’m trying. And I’m trying to be proud of myself.
It is easy to look at homelessness like a blanket issue, but there are so many reasons behind it. No two stories are the same. But resources help people. With the right support, there are people who will begin to get where they need to go. Outside In has been that resource for me.
Please give to Outside In today. You can change lives like mine. Thank you!