Advocates say one of the best ways to approach the problem of homelessness is to provide housing first. Then, issues around drug addiction and physical and mental health can be addressed in a safe, stable situation. One organization in Lane County is working to provide housing to those in need.
Cornerstone Community Housing started about 20 years ago in Lane County. It provides affordable housing in collaboration with local non-profits. Thanks to grant-funding from Trillium Community Health Plan, Cornerstone also provides Community Health Workers for its residents.
Shara Brittain was homeless for about a year. 21 and pregnant, she reached out to one of Cornerstone’s partners, Looking Glass, which helped get her on a wait-list for housing.
Shara: “You know, me and my mom, we were sleeping outside, camping out by the river, just waiting to hear something back about being housed. And all I can say is, when I got that phone call I was so happy and being able to move in there made it, it was life-changing. It was really life-changing.”
Brittain is now in a 2-bedroom apartment with her 6 month old daughter Lucy. She says moving into her own place gave her room to breathe and safety just in time to have her baby. Brittain is attending AA meetings and plans to go to school and find employment. Brittain is receiving rent-assistance from Looking Glass. Her Community Health Worker, Iris Bicksler, helped with the transition.
Bicksler: “This young lady is my hero. She has worked so hard at being an amazing mom and she has jumped over that hurdle with flying colors and is an absolute inspiration for me.”
Bicksler says she checks in with Brittain on a regular basis, making sure she and Lucy are healthy and doing well. Bicksler says Cornerstone’s goal is to empower people so they can become independent. Brittain says having Bicksler's support has helped her change her life and they became close.
Brattain: “And she was there for the birth of my daughter and kind of worked with me as my doula and just gave me a lot of support.”
Brittain wants to give back by becoming a peer-support specialist so she can help people who are experiencing homelessness and addiction.
Shara: “It would mean a lot to give back to the community and to help others that might be in the same position that I was once in.”
Brittain says it’s thanks to many other people who helped her that she was able to get out of homelessness.
Copyright 2017 KLCC.