Homeless Series: When You Can’t Help

The hard humbling fact is Corvallis expressed itself in hopeful help for both Kimberly Hakes and Michael Whipple, and still, they are departed. 

Kimberly Hakes was found dead by the Willamette River in mid February of 2015, having suffered head trauma in what is believed to be a murder. She was age 42 and had been homeless for many years. She had been a regular recipient of services at the Daytime Drop-in Center, and had been offered shelter services, but preferred camping. Ultimately, as we stated at the time, Hakes’ death is the responsibility only one person, her murderer.

Also in 2015, Michael Whipple passed out after an evening of drinking in early January and died in the freezing overnight temperatures. He had been homeless in the past, but was residing in a trailer arranged for him by Corvallis Housing First at the time of his death. He was age 63.

Corvallis Reacted Emotionally
At the time, letters to The Advocate and posts elsewhere ran the gamut, but some themes did emerge.  One was to blame the community itself for being what was seen as overly welcoming and permissive towards the homeless. These often pointed to what was seen as a lack of expectation setting from low barrier shelters and services – the sorts of services that don’t have many sobriety requirements.

Conversely, many expressed the view that not enough was being made available to the homeless. Also, there was an expression of frustration at a perceived lack of law enforcement, or lack of governmental oversight.

They Did Not Slip Between the Cracks

Our community offers a diversity of viewpoints on how best to help those in need, and even those who can claim expertise do not entirely agree on what is most constructive.

Still, people in 2015 that knew Hakes and Whipple’s deaths seemed somehow unsurprising, and also, deeply unfair.  Conversely, nobody offered what else could have been done.

Our series on homelessness concludes tomorrow. We present a CitySpeak forum on homelessness on Thursday, Oct. 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. It’s at the library, click here for details.  

By Andy Thompson