April 2 – Marge Pettitt is one of a dozen homeless women who have no place to go after the First United Methodist women’s shelter closed for the season on April 1st. She has set up her tent on the sidewalk outside the courthouse, because, as she says, “Where can we be?” As of press time, she had been given 24 hours’ notice to vacate the spot before being removed by police.
The seasonal closing of the women’s shelter precipitated a rally by homeless Corvallisites Tuesday, between Central Park and the courthouse. About 20 people met in front of the courthouse. Pettitt says, of many of the women who were at the shelter, “We as women want to feel safe because we have been victimized,” by domestic violence.
The Community Outreach, Inc. programs offer beds to veterans and families, but not single men. Other facilities offer shelters only during the winter months. Leo Steelman says, of the Corvallis situation in general, “They kick you out and expect you to walk around the streets all night long.”
BJ, who wanted to be identified only by his first name, says “The majority of the homeless out here don’t have issues with each other, or with much of the public except the police. [The police] are the ones that are causing the issues, in my opinion.” He continues, “There’s a select few that make a bad name for the rest, and we try to clear that up but we don’t want to invade anyone’s space.” He says the best way the public can help is to donate to First Christian Church, which participates in the Stone Soup meal program.
Doyle Franklin, AKA Pops, says of homeless young people, “These children are going to always be in trouble until the community realizes that people are people. If you want them to be better, spend some time with them.” Pettitt, who’s lead art projects with homeless youth, says “It’s hard to watch the younger generation. They’re angry about things in general, the government and so on, and then you add in what they have to deal with being homeless.”
It’s unclear what the next step will be for Pettitt. What is clear is that the problems facing Corvallis’ homeless population are as big as ever.
By Bethany Carlson