Joyce Rollins, who served homeless for 15 years, now needs help
Joyce Rollins has volunteered with the Clackamas Service Center for 15 years, serving food to the homeless population. In all that time, she never imagined that she would find herself in the position of those she has helped.
Last October, however, Rollins' mobile home burned to the ground, leaving her and her disabled son homeless.
Left with only the clothes on their backs, Rollins now lives from couch to couch, while her son stays with a friend. Both of them still need a stable place to live, said Trena Sutton, a fellow volunteer at the CSC and an advocate for the homeless.
Sutton has been trying to find a home for Rollins, 76, and her 45-year-old son, but has had no luck.
The main obstacle seems to be that once people find out Rollins' son lives with her, opportunities evaporate, Sutton said.
"I have called every social service, but the money is just not there, and none of the shelters will allow the son to accompany her," Sutton said.
Some faith-based organizations will allow companion animals but not the son.
"It's a lack of knowledge. People assume if you have a 45-year-old son staying with you, he's sponging off his mother," she said, noting that the son has lived with Rollins for 25 years and has been disabled for 30 years.
"He's applied for disability and been denied three times. We have set up a court date, but it is a year from now," Rollins said.
Series of let-downs
Recently, Sutton found a large camper-style vehicle for sale for a reasonable price that would have been perfect for Rollins and her son, but then she couldn't find a spot to park the vehicle.
"I called every single park; I spent two days on the phone," Sutton said, but no spaces were available.
She found an advertisement for what sounded like the perfect place but then discovered the RV park was in Redding, California.
"I didn't even tell her about that one. She's been let down so many times, I didn't want to break her heart," Sutton said.
The fifth-wheel has now been sold, so that is no longer an option.
The mobile-home park on Southeast Fuller Road, where Rollins used to live, also has been sold.
"Mine burned down, and all the rest were kicked out," Rollins said.
Opportunity to help
"I've put in so many applications for subsidized housing, but the waiting list is for two or more years," Rollins said.
The best way that the community can help Rollins and her son is simple, Sutton said.
"People can call me if they have a spot where Joyce and her son can live or offer me solutions," she said, noting that a home-share program could be an option.
Her number is 503-906-0399; she noted that she and the service center will not be collecting any monetary donations.
Sutton added that the Red Cross and a faith-based organization can provide Rollins with any furniture she will need, and the service center has given her enough clothes to get by, as "she has served them with distinction all these years."
Rollins has a meager income from Social Security but no other money coming in.
She also has a heart condition, and doctors are trying to find medications that will slow her heart rate down, as it speeds up five or six times a day and then crashes.
Her health situation has added to her stress.
"I'm 76, and I've never been without a place to live," Rollins said. "I don't care if it's in a barn, as long as I can take my son. I just want a place of my own."
"Joyce has been an integral part of CSC. For over 15 years she has volunteered with us to help those in need, all the while being in need herself," said Debra Mason, executive director of the Clackamas Service Center.
"Her impact on our community is far-reaching. She worked to help those in need get the food they needed to make sure kids were fed when they went to school each day and [help] folks stretch their paychecks," she said.
"She didn't know anything else. She only knew that if she was able, she could help others. She is extremely valuable to us and to the community."