"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Jun 11, 2018

A Tale of Two Homeless Families

I’ve already admitted I’m not Camp Host material. I’d make a terrible Scout Leader, too, but I really tried my best to be a good Camp-Mother, ugh.

This is a tale of two homeless families, sponsored by the same charity, staying in the campground at the same time. Both families were evicted for whatever reason and have school-age children, but that’s where the similarities end. Just like I witnessed at Community First, there are those who become homeless because of overwhelming financial hardships, and others because of their addictions. It's really not that cut-and-dried, but let's get on with the story.

The campground is ‘primitive’, meaning sites do not have individual water, waste or electric hookups (other than the Host). Camping is fun but imagine doing it day, after week, after month. Campsites are $20 for 2 vehicles; 8 people; one tent per person allowed. Imagine how this can be manipulated.


There's no place to house the ever-increasing homeless population, so charities pay for 2 weeks and provide simple pop-up tents for those who have nothing. Others have their own Mc-Tentsions - have you seen them? Larger than tiny homes. Erect two or three in a single camping spot and suddenly you have a Tent City. Blue tarps delineate areas, and ‘guests’ come and go in order to enjoy the campground’s free bath-and-shower facilities. That adds up to some pretty nasty bathroom conditions, I can tell you.


Back to the family of four: the parents, I'm guessing in their early 30’s, looked strung-out all the time, and two tweenage daughters were usually left to their own devices. Pets included one cat and two dachshunds, which despite repeated requests by myself and other Park folks to keep them leashed, were allowed to roam the grounds, which is full of squirrels. For some reason people with small dogs believe leash laws were written for larger breeds only.

I was taking a nap on my day off when the kind of determined pounding I’ve done on occasion woke me up.  Took me a few seconds to shake my head, and when I stepped outside one girl was heading towards the rest of her family, who were waving arms and screaming at the bottom of my driveway.

One of their dogs chased a squirrel into a drainage pipe and couldn’t get out. As soon as I emerged the screaming was directed at me.

OMG, (story, story).  THESE (pipes) SHOULD BE COVERED! WHERE DOES IT LEAD?!  WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!” I said I’d go call the Ranger. He was out of the park but on his way back, so I went outside to inform the mob a Ranger was on his way.

“YOU SHOULDA…THEY OUGHTA…THAT DOG’S WORTH $800 DOLLARS!  AREN’T YOU GOING TO DO ANYTHING?!”

So far I was doing pretty well at controlling my tongue, and repeated the Ranger was coming. After all, what did they expect me to do, climb in after it? They were warned to leash the dogs.  SCREAMING, SCREAMING back at me. That’s when Amy noticed the second dachshund sniffing about and yelled,

“WELL, TIE UP THE OTHER ONE!”

“MA’AM, DON’T YELL AT ME!”

Camp Hosts are supposed to remain calm, but if campers remain difficult then leave it for the Rangers. That's why they pay them the big bucks.

“I am TRYING to help. I CALLED the Ranger; there's nothing else I can do." I understood their hysteria, but you know what it's like trying to help someone who gives you a hard time in return. I was dealing with 4 someones so I went back inside.

As the family related their stories simultaneously to the Ranger, the mother gestured and pointed towards my RV, grabbing his shirt, pleading for his help.

I knew what was coming. Afterwards, as he sauntered towards my RV, I stepped outside and asked outright if he wanted to talk to me about anything. A few benign comments later he said,

“They (all) say you threatened to have them thrown out of the Park. Said you threatened this-and-that.”

Wha…??? Were they joking? All I said was they should leash the dogs; sharply, yes. They wouldn't stop screaming. Their dogs have been loose since they arrived and they were reminded of the rules.

He believed me; adding he was ready to leave immediately after arriving, but it's his job. He was assessing the situation when one tween demanded to know what he was going to do, “in the next few minutes or else she would call the Fire Department.”

CALL the Fire Department,” he said, and she did. It was quite the production, with more holes dug for another way into the pipe. The dog was finally recovered, alive.

To be Libran-fair, perhaps the inbreds  misinterpreted, “I called a Ranger" with, I’m having you thrown out. They may have been paranoid after their recent experience, but I got the feeling it wasn't their first eviction.  Still, I was ps'd when the charity worker came to speak to me, asking like an attorney,

“You didn’t threaten them with eviction? So you won't be proceeding with having them removed?”

“Didn’t you speak to the Ranger who was just here?” (No) “I have no authority…I sell firewood, for crying out loud! Next time they need help tell them to call the Ranger. I’m done.” Like an idiot I gave her my card along with the Ranger's number.


The next day one dog was loose again and the tweens decided it was fun to make uncouth noises and gestures whenever they passed my site.  But I was leaving anyway so the only thing I could feel was sorry the girls were learning to lie and act like white trash by their addict parents at such an early age.

I should have told the charity worker to speak to the other campers their organization is subsidizing, just down the path.

The quiet young Mother, living in 3 tents with 4 children under the age of 12, had moved in a couple days earlier.  Supposedly they, too, were evicted and she was car-less as well. Slender, neat, a bit hippy-ish (normal in Oregon) she kept her children clean, and in tow; the youngest via papoose. The previous morning her 12-year-old knocked gently on my door at 7:15 (I was computering), introduced herself and announced she and her brother overslept so could I please give them a ride to the bus stop down the road?

I’m 62 and have never been asked that question in my life. I blinked against the sunshine and her politeness. Her moxie impressed me. “Sure,” I replied, but time was short so I told her to hustle. She grabbed her 8-year-old brother and their school sacks and off we went down the winding, mile-long road, but at the stop I suspected we were too late. It was their first school day since moving to the campground so they weren’t familiar with the schedule. We sat for a bit until I asked the girl,

“Do you know how to get to your schools from here?” She did; they were adjacent; and I reminded them not miss the bus coming home. I was tickled to be experiencing another first: dropping kids off at school like parents. I didn’t even think to ask them to buckle their seat belts, but I am driving a Volvo after all.


The Mother came by later with the two youngest, first thanking me and then nicely trying to talk me into giving them rides for this last week of school. I didn’t want to be responsible for her children, but offered to be a backup for the next day at least, if she couldn’t arrange otherwise, which she managed. She tried to give me $5 for the gas which I refused, but appreciated the gesture.

I was surprised the charity didn’t put two and two together and arrange for all the kids to get to the bus, but I’ve been trying not to take on a false sense of responsibility for others, at least not as much as I've done. It’s not easy but it’s necessary.

Two families in similar straits.  Which would you choose to help? Those tweens weren't taught any better, so they can't possibly teach manners to their own daughters when the time comes. In order to level the playing field, kids should be taught etiquette in school from kindergarten on up, because who mentions 'table manners' during an interview? It may not make a difference getting in the door, but climbing up the ladder, with fierce competition, is another. As to lying: who can say anything when it has become acceptable, expected even, for our President to lie to us every day with impunity?

Working at the Oregon campground definitely took some of the shine off of the idealism I'd developed in Texas. But then I remind myself that one bad apple shouldn’t be allowed to spoil the barrel, and now volunteer at a local community for the homeless, Hope Village.  These places are popping up all over the country, so if interested in helping Search in your own area for Tiny Homes for the Homeless.


Hope Village is a much smaller scale than Community First, but I'm hoping my experience becomes helpful. I did manage to bring my Master Gardener friend into the fold. She's looking forward to giving classes down the road, but for the moment she's helping to save the donated and planted vegetable garden (but without instructions on how to maintain). Lea is already talking about different planting configurations in the fall.

It's kind of nice...planting my own shallow roots for a spell.

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