Stories of Progress

Gwyn and Dan share story of moving from homelessness to housing

Years of living on the streets made Portland couple Gwyn and Dan feel like returning to stable housing would never happen for them. But through services made possible by the Joint Office of Homeless Services, the couple have moved into permanent supportive housing — and they feel a new sense of hope.

“It means everything,” Gwyn said. “It’s safety, it’s security, it’s comfort. It’s home.”

The couple were homeless for years and felt unable to find a way out. They moved to Portland from Florida with the hope of finding work, but lingering injuries from an accident left Gwyn with an infected hip, unable to walk.

They slept in a van, and each day was a struggle getting basic needs met. “I need to take a shower. I need to get my mail. I need to get to my doctor’s appointments,” Gwyn said, saying all of those basic tasks were hard when they were unsheltered. Sometimes the couple would spend a day panhandling just to get the $14 needed to take a shower at a truck stop in Troutdale.

“Once you’re on the street, you kind of get stuck in that situation,” Dan said.

For them, the first step to getting tapped into services was a stay at a severe weather shelter. It was there that they met a County employee who told them about the services provided through the Joint Office, and recommended they connect with shelter provider Do Good Multnomah.

“She signed us up for some shelters,” Dan said. “And it took almost six months before they called us and they told us they had beds available at Arbor Lodge.”

The couple stayed for eight months at Arbor Lodge shelter, which is currently closed for renovations but will reopen as a long-term shelter in 2024. Arbor Lodge is owned by Multnomah County, with services provided by Do Good Multnomah with funding from the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

At the shelter, they were finally able to get their basic needs met. Along with getting protection from the elements, they were served two meals a day and had access to showers, Wi-Fi and phone chargers. And, importantly, they had access to the services offered by Do Good Multnomah.

“It’s a low-barrier shelter, so they meet you where you’re at,” Gwyn said, saying it was meaningful “just to have people to talk to, guide you in the right direction. Just to get the kind of support you need.”

They didn’t realize housing would be a possibility for them until they saw the changes in the lives of other people at the shelter. “I’d seen a lot of people get housed who went through there, and that’s what gave me hope,” Gwyn said.

After taking the needed assessments to get into the Coordinated Access system, it was determined that they were eligible for permanent supportive housing, which pairs affordable housing with case management and social services. In early 2023, they were able to move into their new apartment.

Now that they’re housed, they’re able to focus on moving forward. Both are able to get long-delayed medical care, including Gwyn’s hip replacement surgery. Dan will be able to focus on getting his GED and finding work.

They’ve made their apartment a home, and recently adopted a cat named Pipsqueak.

“It’s a chance to start a new life,” Gwyn said. “It just inspires you to want to continue going on the right path.”

Gwyn said she wants to someday help people in the way that she and Dan have been helped, saying she’s interested in becoming a peer provider.

“I couldn’t have gotten here without help,” Gwyn said.  “I want to give back what was given to me.”


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