“Sally” is a 75 year old woman who is staying in OHRA’s Shelter. OHRA first met Sally in 2015 when her and her brother needed assistance, they were homeless, and we helped them find a discounted rate at a local hotel. They became housed soon after, although the rent was not affordable on two fixed incomes. They knew they could come to OHRA if they needed support. We saw them infrequently when they were in need for assistance, once in 2017 for some rental assistance, and again a short time in 2018 when their vehicle broke down.
In February, 2022, Sally’s brother passed away. It took her several months and an eviction notice before she felt able to connect with OHRA and St. Vincent de Paul for help. She owed nearly $4,000 in back rent, and her rent was not affordable. OHRA pulled together with close to a dozen community partners, and we were able to clear up her debt, prevent her from eviction, and connect with her insurance who offered a few months of additional rental assistance. In the course of a year, OHRA Navigators met with Sally more than 40 times. We signed her up over 30 local affordable housing opportunities, and worked hard to help her become stable.
In Summer of this year, Sally was offered a housing opportunity in Eagle Point. She seemed willing but stressed about the idea of leaving her home in Ashland. We thought that Sally was finally going to have stable housing! However, Sally struggles with her mental health. She suddenly dropped off of contact with her support systems, lost her housing opportunity, lost her housing, and then attempted suicide. When OHRA learned about Sally’s situation, we invited her into our 6 month shelter, where she has flourished over the past few months. She has connected with her Navigator, Kasey, who helps her understand her options and plan her next steps. Sally knows that she wants to live in Ashland, and that is where her support system is, and where she will likely be most successful. Sally receives her mail at OHRA while she is looking for housing, and over the last 2 and a half months alone, Sally has received more than half of her 40 services through regular, ongoing appointments with her Navigator.
Recently, Sally came up on the list for not one, but TWO affordable housing opportunities in Ashland. Kasey, her Navigator at OHRA endearingly recalled Sally’s answers to two housing interview questions that she had the honor to sit in on recently. The questions were: “what is a short term goal and what is a long term goal that you have?” Sally’s short term goal was to find stable housing, her long term goal is “to continue to be a useful person.” Kasey commented on how she “just loved that response, because it seems to point to her resiliency and self-awareness.” This amazing 75 year old woman, now has a safe place to be, a stronger support system than ever, and the time, ability and choice to move into a new home. The day before Thanksgiving, Kasey shared that Sally was officially offered an intent to rent from her top choice of housing. The rent is subsidized, so she shouldn’t ever struggle to afford her rent, and she is excited to be in her new home for the holidays.
“John” is one of the longest-served individuals at OHRA. We first met him a month after OHRA’s opening in 2014, and he is still comes to receive services today. When we first met John, he struggled heavily with addiction, and he was chronically homeless. He had never had a lease in his adult life, and he didn’t know how to be housed. His exuberant personality was overwhelming and intimidating to many, but he often mentioned how he felt welcome at OHRA. Throughout the years, John has received more than 400 services through OHRA. From 2014 until 2020, he met with Navigators about 140 times, and the majority of these services included resources for clothing, job search and readiness, life skills education, transportation, and benefits assistance.
In 2020, OHRA received emergency funding to get people off of the street and into temporary housing solutions (such as hotels). This was one of the first times John had ever really felt housed. This seemed to be the turning point for John. He knew what it felt like to be housed, and he didn’t want to go back out on the streets. Eventually, the funding did end, and he became unsheltered and unhoused again. His health took a turn for the worse, and he continued to use OHRA services, however the new focus with his Navigator was housing and a sustainable income. He received more than 100 services in 2020 alone, the majority of which were focused on housing and case management. He soon realized that his health was too poor to work, and he began the process of applying for disability.
In 2021, he entered the OHRA Shelter. His health improved significantly, and he spent many appointments setting up transportation to address his medical needs, which supported his need for disability. After 6 months in the OHRA Shelter, John had reached the maximum amount of time allowed to stay. He was an ideal “tenant” at OHRA, his room was always meticulously clean, he still struggled with his addiction, but he respected the rules and staff at OHRA. Unfortunately, resources did not line up in time, and John was back out on the street. He never gave up, and continued to work with his Navigators. Soon, he was approved for disability, and then a HUD Voucher. OHRA supported John’s application, highlighting how clean he kept his space and offering a type of “rental reference” since he had no others. He showed up to appointments with his Navigator, and just before Christmas in 2021, John was approved for housing! OHRA covered the deposit and rent to get him into the space, and he has been safely housed ever since.
John continues to utilize OHRA services. He still receives mail at OHRA, and meets with a Navigator at least once a month. Whenever he receives paperwork that he is uncertain of how to address, he brings it in, and him and his Navigator take care of it together. In 2023, OHRA only provided less than 30 services for John. As John starts to become more comfortable with being housed and has gained more confidence in himself the meetings with OHRA have continued to decrease over time. After all of this time and effort, John is finally stable and sustainable, and he is excited to enjoy his third Christmas in his new home
“My Coach, My Teammate, My Umpire”
OHRA meticulously tracks and counts the services it provides. But sometimes it is hard to quantify what may be the most vital service – being a companion on a guest’s road to recovery.
Susan (not her real name) is a guest whose story and note of appreciation to OHRA stressed the value of having someone to lean on when you hit a rough patch.
Susan originally came to OHRA nearly two years ago. She had been working with an OHRA partner, St. Vincent de Paul, on the problem of stable housing, but then Susan’s car broke down and she lost both transportation and a potential (although not ideal) shelter. Lead Navigator Tina Stevens worked with Susan and, with other OHRA partners, raised money for car repairs. However, that did not end the problem of her unsafe housing (coach surfing and even sheltering in a former shop). Eventually, Susan moved into the OHRA Center as a stop gap. Tina worked with her to get a HUD and then the housing authority found a landlord who would take the voucher. Here is part of Susan’s note to OHRA, United Way and St. Vincent de Paul.
“This has been a very long journey. But I wasn’t alone on my path. I had you, Tina. You had my back through every single step. I don’t know what I would have done without you rooting me on, being my coach, my teammate and my umpire.”
Susan talked about moving out of her OHRA Center room for its next guest. “This was a wonderful place to be. You are all amazing people.”
Desde que fui referido a OHRA, Tina me ha ayudado con todas mis beneficios de desempleo y con otras necesidades. Hoy tengo la tranquilidad que nunca tenía con esos asuntos. Tina ha hecho toda la diferencia. ¡Es completamente invaluable!”
Since being referred to OHRA, Tina has helped me with all my unemployment and other needs. The peace of mind that I’ve never had with those matters is now there. Tina has made all the difference, completely invaluable!
A couple's story: Rapid rehousing stops crisis from snowballing
John and Judy’s situation was bleak– they were living in a motel for two months after losing their jobs and home. Room costs were eating up their savings. John’s chronic disability made sleeping in the car impossible. OHRA’s navigator quickly recognized the couple qualified for COVID Rapid Relief Rehousing funds. OHRA’s navigator found them an apartment just nine days after meeting them.
When OHRA’s navigator told them “I can get you housed right now,” Judy fell to her knees and cried. Since then, John has secured disability benefits. Judy continues to look for work, but in her words “a world of worry has been lifted.”
A family's story: Hope when everything was lost
A family of agricultural workers came into the Resource Center because COVID had taken their jobs, and the Almeda fire had taken their home. OHRA’s navigator immediately contacted a community partner that found a rental for the family. OHRA connected the family with resources for a deposit and several months’ rent. In a follow-up visit, OHRA was also able to secure utility assistance while they got on their feet.
The parents are now employed and deeply grateful for the help during an unthinkable crisis. With his parents stable, the oldest son was able to stay in school and graduate from college.
"This is the best blessing I've ever received..."
I was recently placed in your guys shelter (OHRA) I just wanted to reach out to you to tell you how grateful and appreciative I am that you guys have been there to help me. I was literally outside sleeping and I didn’t have any hope until I got a call from you to tell me you guys had a place for me to stay. Without this shelter (OHRA) I really don’t know where I would have ended up or what would have happened to me. Since I’ve been staying in the OHRA shelter, I’ve held down a permanent job that I really like, I have a hot shower before I got to work and a warm bed to sleep in. This is the best blessing I’ve ever received and words cannot express how happy and thankful I am for this OHRA being here. I really hope more residents receive the help I’ve been offered. Also they are helping me find a stable apartment. Again, I’m beyond excited and thankful for what OHRA has done for me. It’s by far the best help anyone could ever receive. Thank you!!!!! -Anonymous OHRA guest
*All names, photos and stories used with permission.