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Anita and her son’s family were victims of the formidable Oregon Fire in Elk this past August. On her journey from upheaval back to stability, Anita found safety and care at the UGM Crisis Shelter for Women and Children. This is her story. 


Forest-Fire

“I was down by the chicken coop when I saw the first tendril of smoke, then a strange cloud. In five minutes, the pillar was wider.” I got up to head back up the hill because my son’s house is on the mountaintop.  As I approached the house, he was coming out the door. We both yelled, ‘Fire!’ He told me, ‘Get inside, get your most essential things, and get ready to vacate.’ His wife was photographing from the window upstairs. In those 10 minutes, the flames rose to 200 feet. She called the authorities and showed them pictures of the fire less than a mile away. We evacuated quickly. We grabbed necessities which included their three large dogs, my elderly cat, and one duck. In four hours, the entire house and all my family memorabilia were gone.”

Anita was able to stay with friends for one week before deciding it was best to utilize the local Red Cross shelter. As the fire was contained and the shelter prepared to close, she needed to find another safe place. “Red Cross was very diligent and compassionate, and they located a bed for me here. That’s how I came to Union Gospel Mission.”

 

“Here they kept holding my hand. There has been nothing but love in its truest sense.”

 

Finding Sanctuary at UGM Crisis Shelter

“When I got here, I was numb and lost, looking at a foreign world. UGM told me, ‘You’ve got 90 days to get reestablished.’  They connected me with the county who works with disabled people without shelter.  Here [UGM] they kept holding my hand. There has been nothing but love in its truest sense. Not this mushy, pat you on the head…stuff. Real love. It was bringing me into life.”

Anita

Still, Anita struggled to find a long-term housing solution that would suit her needs. “After searching for a place unsuccessfully, I knew I was in a blind alley. There was nothing but a canyon wall of closure and denial. I was told, ‘You don’t fit,’ or ‘You can’t afford.’ I was panicked, on the verge of breaking down. I was gripping with all my nails to hold on to my faith. I said, ‘Oh God, hold on to me, keep me because I can’t do it myself.’ Two days later, I broke down before God and said, ‘Lord, there’s no more stones to turn. There’s no more we can humanly do.’”

 
A Lifeline for Anita

“Two days later I got a call. (Mind you, I don’t have an uncaring family, but they are getting old too.) I got a phone call from my youngest brother. He said, ‘Sister, Brenda and I have been talking all night and you are blood. You will not be left there. We have already begun the work to get you out here.’ When he said that the ice and rock or whatever was closing in and ripping me just vanished.”

As AniCarrie-and-Anitata reconnected with her brother, she described to him the care she’d received at UGM. She says she told him that, “Every lady here, including the guests, has been rooting for me as they root for each other. There is so much love here. There is an overall sense of safety. No monkey stuff, but gobs of affection and encouragement. It’s a mature environment. It is cozy, warm, and clean. I’ve not eaten an unbalanced diet since I’ve been here.”

Not everyone has family that can take them in when catastrophes strike, but Anita says she is confident that UGM and the community that supports us is doing everything in their power to support those seeking help in building a better life. 

More Than Shelter and Meals

“As excited as I am about getting on board the plane this Friday, there are those here that I’m going to truly miss. Carrie, one of the administrative staff, has acted as my case worker.  She was relentless. She has walked with me all the way through. She helped me get my ticket, buy luggage and a cat carrier. She was my financial aid helper, computer wizard, and mover and shaker to get things together.

 

“It is not just people who have thrown their life away not knowing anything else to do with it. There is a whole gob of reasons out there why people become homeless.”



“If I could, I would advocate for people in places like this. It is not just people who have thrown their life away not knowing anything else to do with it. There is a whole gob of reasons out there why people become homeless.

Anita-Boarding-Plane“But as long as the givers out there in our community have a heart for serving, they will continue to have good balanced meals. Some of them haven’t known such food in years.


“Union Gospel Mission is a worthy institution. I’ve got a bank of money that is only in my heart that says if they had it, they’d grow with more homes, and they’d do whatever they could. All the people who hold this organization together, who maintain the paperwork, who do administrative work, may God keep them strong and wise.

“Please, if you’ve got a surplus and you want to help in the Lord’s work for your fellow humans, be assured that your money will be spent conscientiously. I’m glad I had this place to come to. I’m glad that somebody walked me through and could bring me here because I couldn’t have done it on my own.”

At the age of 79, Anita has become acutely aware of the need for shelters for older, disabled adults.  She recognizes those who already are poor, bedridden, and lacking a community of support. She says, “It took me being in need to see the need.”

Having said our farewells, we pray blessings over Anita, her brother, and his wife as they establish life together and seek new opportunities for Anita. This story of loss and renewed hope is only possible because of gifts and care from our caring community of people like you.

 

 

No one wants to see people living on the streets. There's another path. Learn more. >>

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