2 seniors living in their cars at a local park never imagined they’d end up on the streets

Dan Smith

December 24 — Golden age Central Point residents Venora Dobrowolski and Stephen Head have a lot in common. The unlikely neighbors who spend the day just a few parking spaces across the Don Jones Memorial Park are part of a growing number of homeless seniors trying to fly under the radar. Spending your days, hiding in your car, or in a low-cost hotel room. Or in a carefully placed tent while navigating life with Social Security, unemployment, or disability payments. When children provide or do not have substance abuse problems, older adults like them are entitled to less resources than older adults in more precarious situations. As they get older, they feel more vulnerable to life on the streets and less likely to seek help. Dobrovolski and Head, who have worked their entire lives, suddenly found themselves homeless this summer when their roommate situation fell apart. Mr. Dobrowski, who came to Rogue His Valley from Portland, complicates life by thinking, "I wish the rent was cheaper." She has a companion bird, her 41-year-old Molucca parrot named Rocky. Shelters won't accept the bird, and rents, even for renting rooms, are higher than the 67-year-old, who lost her husband in 2012 and has little to live on, can afford. Cuddling in a bright blue Ford Fiesta near the restrooms adjacent to the picnic pavilion, a woman and a bird listen to music, read and post products sold online from a large storage unit, and aim for purpose. spending time to achieve Needless to say, the woman quipped that these days the objectives inevitably coincide. Dobrowolski lived in Portland until this summer, but decided to move after a fight with a longtime roommate and various unsuccessful offers from friends. Loved the opportunity, she returned to southern Oregon in hopes of a typically mild winter. Even with the car full of supplies and Rocky's cage in the back seat surrounded by insulating blankets, the recent temperature drops to the low 20s were hard to bear. "I think we'll be fine. We just keep the car warm. Every hour or hour and a half, he turns the car on to warm it up. He usually doesn't have to tell me. I do that too." I feel," she said. "Sometimes I doze off. I can hear him peeping a little bit. That's how he says it, telling me to turn the heating back on. We try to save gas as much as we can." But you have to. Keep warm." Dobrowolski said the bird "used to have more to say" but mellowed out as it matured. "Lately, he seems to be asking me to interpret his various peeks and telepathically read his mind so that he doesn't have to speak," she teased. Just across the street, 64-year-old Stephen Head spends his time reading books at the nearby Little Free Library in his old brown Jeep. Being able to borrow books and having restrooms nearby are the reasons both Dobrovolski and Head hang out in the park during the day. In a further boost, record levels of homelessness and rising crime levels have made the smaller city near new homes feel less threatened than nearby Medford. Head lived in Rogue Valley for 12 years, but said he was homeless after the 2020 fires. I prefer the safety of “I lived in the mountains until there was a fire two years ago.Then housing got even crazier than before.I was told to move.I live in Eagle Point. but they were kicking people out to make more money, lending money to everyone looking for a place to live," he said. “It took me a few months to get back on my feet, but the last few years have been tough.” The head rented a room for several years until the house was suddenly sold. He has worked all his life, but his health problems hinder his ability to earn a living without the need for hernia surgery. "I was working for a contractor and making a decent living. Even though I was working part-time, I was making good money," he added. "After I became homeless, I was sick for a while and had to rent a motel room. It was expensive, but it was my only option. I couldn't find another room and I had to move out of the motel, weather. He said, "In all the years I've been here, I've always tried to help people where I can, so it's really interesting to find myself in this situation... I think the shoes are on the other side." increase." Community advocate Debbie Saxbury met Dobrowski and Head after Santa's "parade through town" last weekend and shared Christmas cookies with the two. It saddens me to see "elderly people" living in their cars, and I've noticed an increase in the number of homeless and struggling community members over the past two years. "It was really shocking because they were both very clean and had a decent car. If I hadn't seen everything in the women's cars, I would have never thought they would be homeless. Really say No," she said. "I think people really underestimate how many people actually underestimate their salaries. And just one from the homeless. There has to be a place for our elderly population." No. See resources if you have children or use drugs." Officials for Medford Aged Services declined to comment on the increase or change in trends among homeless seniors. Bobby, a senior and veteran homeless advocate who founded Southern Oregon Navigator about 15 years ago Holden said he saw a significant spike in the number of seniors on the streets of southern Oregon. Holden said he recently found a 71-year-old blind man lying on the ground in a thin blanket. The man was later hospitalized. According to Holden, homeless people are often less visible to older people who try to keep a low profile for many reasons. "Some of them don't look like you'd expect. No one should be out there in the cold, but it's especially sad when it's our veterans and seniors." '' said Holden. “Older people show up less often and are reluctant to ask for help. They tend to stay in their cars or in the suburbs. Two neighbors who found solace in Don Jones Park argued that a positive outlook was important. Said. "I'm a survivor, so it's okay. I'm going to try and sell what I have in my warehouse. If I don't sell something right away and pay for the storage and my cell phone, I lose. The only way I can get in touch with everyone." It's a way," he said, rubbing his hands together to warm them. “I have never been homeless before, so I don’t have all the resources. You can say." Dobrowolski and Rocky had similar plans. Sell ​​items from your warehouse and avoid negative thinking. "We all have to remember that we are at least better than someone else. Some of us who were born in the 1940s and 1950s knew that when we got Social Security, it was We knew it was never going to be that many," she said. "I'm trying to help as many people as I can. I go to food banks, collect food, and take it to all the other homeless people. Today I took my hat off to an older man and gave him a pair of couples. He was newly homeless and had nothing.” Dobrowolski said maintaining a positive mindset will get her through. "I never imagined being homeless at my age? I never imagined. I never imagined living in my car. 40 years with birds I had no idea," she said. "But that's the way it is, we're doing the best we can and we'll get through it." Head agreed.

Please contact reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.