By Tara Williams | CNA Media Team
When Oregon native Chris Gibbons was a child, he often stayed with his grandparents who lived at 32nd Avenue and Killingsworth Street. Since last August, Chris has been living in a homeless camp at 33rd and Dekum Street.
“A couple friends of mine were staying here. They told me ‘Hey, we got a spot open down here if you need it.’ I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was thinking to myself, ‘Wow, how ironic is this?’”
Concordians may have passed Chris’ camp and noted its whimsical touches – holiday lights and the outfits of the day displayed by Manny the mannequin. Neighbors who frequent Nextdoor.com may know Chris from his posts that offer snow shoveling and handyman services.
Some have contributed to his GoFundMe.com requests, which he started in November to raise money to clean up piles of trash left in the camp by previous residents. “It looks so much better,” Chris observed.
Challenges facing the houseless include taking care of basic needs. “When I first got here, I was trying to figure out, ‘Where does everyone use the bathroom at?’” He and his campmates take turns walking to a nearby gas station, store or restaurant, or they use the compost toilet they made.
“That’s one of our biggest challenges. A bathroom would be just awesome, and that would be a big step. I heard they put a lot of port-apotties out last summer. But a lot of them got destroyed or vandalized, and those people kind of ruined it for the rest of us.”
Chris said the camp could use a generator to provide electricity. “It gets so dark here,” he said. “There’s no outdoor lighting in this area.”
Food storage is also a problem. “We get a lot of rats here.” One of his campmates’ cat kills several per night. And Chris now has a device placed in the ground outside his tent that keeps the rats from digging under and up.
In March, Chris’s 1994 red Mustang was stolen . “You gotta watch your stuff 24/7. It’s not a good situation.”
He could also use a more durable tent, and he is very interested in tiny homes. A friend of his in another camp was offered a job building tiny homes on Powell Boulevard and received housing when the project was completed.
Tara Williams is new to Concordia and loving life on Liberty Street. She’s a writer and English professor, not always in that order. Contact her at Eudaimonia.Dr.Williams@gmail. com.