John, Shea, Richard, Gerome. People experiencing homelessness in Eugene and Lane County have a name. And a story to tell.
Troy had been homeless for about a year when we spoke with him at FFLC’s Dining Room in November.
“I’m most proud of my 21-year-old daughter. She’s proof I’m doing something right.”
“I’ve been coming to the Dining Room for about a year. It’s nice to have a place like this to get a decent meal, I always eat pretty well. I’m on food stamps, too, but it never quite covers. I’m fortunate that I have a car, but you know you can’t keep food just in the sun.”
When money is tight, and it’s always tight, Troy faces difficult choices.
“The first time I ever fasted, it was when I really ran out of food and food stamps. I fasted for a long time. I got so skinny I scared myself. So now when I run out and there’s just nothing else, then I’ll just purposefully fast.”
“I’ve gotten used to not having food. Sometimes food is just a comfort. Like Friday and Saturday, I’ll fast for a couple of days to help me cope with it, learn to adjust and accept it more easily. I know that the Dining Room is going to open Monday again for food. I just kinda live with it, incorporate it and kind of accept it.”
Troy receives a small income as a writer.
“A lot of times I’ll turn away longer-term jobs because it bites into how much time I can devote to my writing.
What money he does make often goes for gas.
“Do I put the food in me, or put gas in the car? Often the car comes first because I need to stay warm.”
Troy knows that a lot of people distrust people who are homeless. At the same, he sees talent and potential in the people he meets on the street.
“I’m amazed how much talent there is, how much knowledge and experience there is. It’s just blows me away, because I had all those preconceived ideas, too. I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation of people, an understanding of people. I lived for three years in motels. Month to month, I’d just stay in motels. I could have stepped out of that and saved money, lived in a car on purpose. I just didn’t want to do that. Now being on the street I realize they’re the same as anybody. I’m blown away by how many great conversations, how many great people. That’s the real plus side for me. I want to get off the street, but at the same time I’m glad I’ve gone through it.”
by Denise Wendt
Photo by Oregon Food Bank. Thank you to Oregon Food Bank Voices project.