as told by Mike O'Malley, an outreach worker at JOIN
Richard was homeless along the Sandy River at a place known as "Thousand Acres" for 27 years straight. I have been tramping through the mud out there and visiting his camp for over 12 years. When chatting at his campsite, sipping coffee around his campfire, he often told me that he wasn’t going anywhere and he was certain he would die out there. Then last summer, he had a stroke by the river--the paramedics had to hike in over a mile to get to his tent and, because it was nighttime and pitch black, they had to leave little flashlights in the trees so they could find their way out again. After his stay in the hospital, Richard resolved that he was not going to die homeless by the river and so did I.
Luckily, we had a housing voucher, and after a lot of searching, we found a willing landlord. We moved Richard and his girlfriend, Theresa (who has been camping outside with him for the last year), and their two dogs into their new apartment. They are beyond happy in their place. It is extremely hard for me to communicate how jarring (in a good way) it is for me to knock on his front door and visit with him in his beautiful apartment (complete with a dishwasher, microwave, etc.) after more than 12 years of sloshing through the mud and searching for his grubby tent in the woods.
I found a photo of a mountain goat and knew I had to get it for Richard’s apartment because it reminds me of him -- tough, kind of solitary, a bit gruff, and used to living in difficult conditions. But that last part isn’t the case anymore, and I couldn’t be happier for him.