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Carrie Miller "Died Of Homelessness" In Eugene

Tiffany Eckert

A chapel in Eugene overflowed with mourners Wednesday paying their respects to Carrie Lucinda Miller. The homeless woman, also known as “Mama Carrie,” was found dead on the steps of White Bird Clinic last week. As KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert reports, the memorial included stories, music and repeated calls for this community to protect its most vulnerable. 

One after another, people stood to talk about Carrie Miller. Some laughed, others cried. Robert, who’s new to Eugene, said he didn’t know anyone in the room—but he knew her. The first time he met Miller, she was in his yard-- looking in his window.

Robert: “My wife came out and talked to her for a minute. My wife came back in and started making this sandwich. I said, ‘What are you doin?’ She says, ‘I’m just making her a sandwich, something to eat.’ (laughter) About a week later, I look out the window and she’s waving at me.”(laughter)

Robert says his wife would make a sandwich for Miller every time she showed up. Then one day, Miller repaid the kindness by giving his son a scooter.

Carrie Miller moved to Eugene from Oklahoma 20 years ago and lived most of that time on the streets. She lived (in a tent) at Whoville, a temporary homeless camp that was dismantled in 2014.

Brenda Kosydar is a homeless case manager with White Bird Clinic. She shared photos of Miller when she served in the Navy Reserves.  Kosydar reminded the crowd that Miller was a daughter, mother, grandmother, aunt. She reads part of a letter from Miller’s mother.

Kosydar: “And it says, Carrie Lu-Lu, my most precious daughter, first I want to let you know the peace you brought me by your constant contact through the years, even during a lot of your worst times, Mother’s Day, mine and your dad’s birthdays…”

Credit Tiffany Eckert
White Bird's Brenda Kosydar reads a letter from Carrie's mother.

Lynne McKinney maneuvered her wheelchair to the front of the room and described the physical pain Miller suffered every day. McKinney says the saddest thing for her is that Carrie had received her first disability check, just before she died.

McKinney: “She was really looking forward to finally having a room somewhere that was just for her.”

Many people acknowledged that Miller was an alcoholic and was sometimes cranky. But she earned the nickname “Mama Carrie” by looking out for others on the streets.

After more than an hour of memorializing, Central Presbyterian Church-Reverend Lorne Bostwick said allowing homelessness is a sin.

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Walker T. Ryan plays at songs to "Mama Carrie."

Bostwick: “Many of the churches here in town have known Carrie. Carrie has slept in our courtyard over here and our courtyard over here on several occasions. I know First Christian and some of the other congregations downtown have had an opportunity to provide hospitality for Carrie through the years as well.”

(It was suggested that some of the over $18 million coming to the city from Comcast be used to create the Carrie Miller Homeless Shelter.)

Musician Walker T. Ryan dedicated this poignant tune to “Mama Carrie.” 

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Members of the Eugene Police Department mourned with the homeless community.
Credit Tiffany Eckert
Robert came to the memorial on his lunch break to remember Carrie Miller.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.
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