Meet Samm McCrary, a founding ROC member. Her story that she shared with us highlights the struggles and strengths of our dynamic ROC members. She has graciously agreed to share her story and we hope that it will inspire others to advocate as a way to give back to those who are still in need of safe, stable, and affordable housing. Samm believes in advocacy and we are proud to have her as a ROC member. Samm, you ROC!
Musings of the Matriarch of Clan McCrary
I glanced over my shoulder as I closed the gate one last time . . . . Five years of memories came flooding back. Goodbye Asian pear tree, so long one hundred year old rose bushes, pergo floors and stained glass windows. My aging Labrador and just two middle aged ladies leaving this home behind. One of them was wondering where they might sleep that night, the other’s eyes filled with excitement, as she anticipated this being their next adventure.
I grabbed her leash, and the small suitcase on wheels that held mostly dog food, her toys, and a few clothes and we made way to a nearby church I had heard didn’t mind people sleeping on their property if you waited until very late at night. We wandered around until midnight. I put my sleeping bag under a shelter, and had just settled in, when someone yelled “That’s my place, get out of there!” We moved to a set of stairs that were partially covered. The wind and rain began in earnest. My dog sought my eyes, and seemed to say, “Can we go home now?”. How to explain that we no longer had a home and no shelter from the storm.
A couple of hours later, we were rousted by the parishioner who told us all to leave. At that point, I began sobbing, completely bereft, so weary, and out of ideas. I picked up the Street Roots resource book that someone had given me, and dialed JOIN and left a voicemaiI. It would be another three months of nightly searching for where to lay my head before I connected with Brad Taylor of JOIN. This was a minor miracle, but the goddesses were with me that day. Brad was manning the desk the day that I came into JOIN to barter for a shower, toiletries, and dog food.
Brad moved me more than nine years ago to the place where I still live. If he had just left me out there on my own, I doubt that I would have been successful, but JOIN provided me with another two years of wraparound services.
Many die on the streets, waiting for the services I received.
I have been able to gather myself and ultimately give back through advocacy. I had gone through a period of wondering why I should be living and not contributing to those in need. I slowly began to advocate for people who were struggling at that stage of homelessness and mental health issues from which I had transcended.
I joined the Health Services Advisory Council at the clinic where I receive services, and now assist their housing specialist. I am certified as a Peer Support Specialist and did a six-month internship at Central City Concern. I worked on the council that has since become the board called SNAPCAB through Partnership for a Hunger-free Oregon. We are liaisons between our peers, and DHS, and occasionally tell our stories at DHS staff meetings. I have volunteered for a variety of tasks for my housing provider, REACH, and now I am a member of their Resident Advocacy Committee. My newest adventure is with Residents Organizing for Change (ROC). With the leadership of our country making decisions that I cannot support, I feel that it is vital to have a platform for our voices to be heard.
I will say that there is still a stigma attached to those who live with mental illness, and despite the fact that doctors agree that it is an ailment that needs the same consideration as other diseases, folks who experience this illness are still subjected to the inequities of a system that doesn’t offer enough support.