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About Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current | View Entire Issue (April 11, 2018)
SILVERTONAPPEAL.COM ܂ WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 2018 ܂ 3A
Homeless family ﬁghts
to keep son oﬀ streets
Continued from Page 1A
installed, similar to the one that once
sat on the playground at Eugene Field
School, where she attended kindergar-
ten and ﬁrst grade.
Now a ﬁfth-grader at Victor Point
School, Karis this year studied the let-
ter-writing campaign of Sara Josepha
Hale, who penned requests to ﬁve U.S.
presidents for a national day of thanks-
giving before Abraham Lincoln ﬁnally
established Thanksgiving Day in 1863.
Karis enjoys reading, writing and
poetry, so she decided to write her own
letter. She sent a petition to Silverton
Mayor Kyle Palmer, asking for wheel-
chair swings at Coolidge McClain Park.
Although she believed her idea was a
good one, she didn’t have high hopes
“I sort of thought it wouldn’t happen
because it took a long time for a letter to
come back from the mayor,” she said.
But behind the scenes, the mayor
was putting his community connec-
tions to work. A longtime Rotary Club
member, he’d just heard of a funding
source that could help.
“Karis’ letter to me was well timed,
as I had just learned that our Rotary
district had unused grant money and
was opening another round of applica-
tions,” Palmer said.
The organization’s board approved
the idea, and a deal was struck: the
swings’ cost would be split between
Rotary’s local and district entities.
Also, city staﬀ recommended adaptive
swings to prevent kids from rolling out
of or falling oﬀ wheelchair swings.
“The city considers (wheelchair
swings) a liability when not used under
supervision, (although) they are great
for closed school playgrounds that have
staﬀ supervision during use,” Palmer
Natalie Pate Salem Statesman Journal
USA TODAY NETWORK
Oscar, from left, Jimmy, Claudia and
AJ Campos pose for a portrait on
March 16. After becoming homeless in
2016, the Campos family worked
through several living situations
before landing at the St. Joseph
Shelter in Mt. Angel.
MOLLY J. SMITH/STATESMAN JOURNAL
While the Campos family's home-
less situation is one that hundreds of
other local families face, their ability to
get a room at the shelter is an excep-
"We were lucky," Claudia said.
"There are some families with more dif-
Some families, she explained, don’t
"have good immigration status" or may
need extensive medical attention. The
shelter also doesn't take anyone with a
criminal background or a history of
And families don't typically get a
spot in the Mt. Angel shelter on the
same day they interview.
There are currently 11 families stay-
ing at the shelter. The 12th slot is saved
for emergency, last-minute situations.
Families are expected to stay about six
months, but that can vary by situation.
Oscar and Claudia said more shel-
ters in the area should take entire fam-
ilies and expand their services.
"There are a lot of families out there
going through the same thing; they’re
separated from their kids," Claudia
said. "It’s overwhelming and it’s very
diﬃcult to ... leave them with someone
She said shelters also need to pro-
vide more resources to help them be-
At St. Joseph's, Claudia has been
able to train for oﬃce work and learn
how to apply for future positions. She's
also learning how to save money and
budget their expenses.
"Other shelters, they tell you about
the resources, but they don’t help you,"
Oscar said. At St. Joseph, "they tell you
about the resources and they push you.
"They make you do something (for)
yourself," he said. "They push you ... to
Claudia and Oscar have tried to fo-
cus on the things that bring them and
their children joy as they transition to
more permanent housing.
Oscar loves to cook and Claudia likes
to bake. AJ is a music enthusiast — he
plays some piano, percussion for his
high school band and the guitar, which
he taught himself by watching You-
Jimmy loves all things Lego. He likes
to build a spaceship, take it apart and
build it again in a new way. And while
he said he isn't a master quite yet, he
loves to play Minecraft.
"Sometimes people outside don’t
understand what it means to not have a
home," Claudia said. "Even if we don’t
have a permanent house ... we try to do
everything (we can) so the kids know
we are here with them, that we’re never
gonna leave them."
399-6745, or follow her on Twitter
@Nataliempate or on Facebook at
Karis Coleman attends the installation of new "adaptive" swings at Coolidge
McClain Park in Silverton. The swings were added to the park after she wrote a
letter to Silverton's mayor. CHRISTENA BROOKS/SPECIAL TO THE APPEAL TRIBUNE
U I SE T H R O
The decision was made — Claudia
Campos and her eight-year-old son
Jimmy would stay at Simonka Place
women's shelter in Keizer. Her hus-
band, Oscar, and their 14-year-old son
AJ would sleep on the streets.
The Campos family had been home-
less for over a month, but they'd been
able to keep the children from sleeping
outside until July of last year.
In Marion County, there are few
shelters that will take full families. And
they frequently come with waiting
lines weeks or months long.
Many families have to decide wheth-
er it's better to split up, especially when
they have sons between the ages of 12
and 18 — they are too old to stay at the
women's and family shelters, but too
young to stay at the men's shelters.
"When you risk not having your kids
with you — or knowing you don’t have a
place for them to sleep at night — it
takes over your mind," Claudia Campos
said. "You feel like, 'Oh my God, I’m
In the 2016-17 school year, nearly
2,000 K-12 students in Marion and Polk
counties were homeless, according to
the Oregon Department of Education.
That includes students living in shel-
ters, sleeping in cars, paying for motels
or crashing on a friend's couch.
That's up from 1,762 homeless stu-
dents in 2014-15.
The Campos family came to Oregon
from Los Angeles in 2016, when they
moved in with Claudia's sister and her
husband in Dallas. But Claudia's rela-
tives eventually gave them a deadline
to move out and ﬁnd their own place.
The family had a Section 8 voucher
for low-income housing. But the
houses available were in more rural, re-
mote locations that were hard to ac-
cess, especially since they didn't have a
car. Available homes in Salem were not
covered by the voucher.
To make matters worse, Oscar had to
have surgery to amputate a toe lost to
diabetic ulcers. Neither he nor Claudia
could ﬁnd work.
Through its Safe Families for Chil-
dren program, Catholic Community
Services found a family willing to take
in Jimmy and AJ while they ﬁnished
the 2016-17 school year in Salem.
But Claudia and Oscar had to stay at
the Salvation Army.
Claudia struggled with depression
and anxiety, only seeing her children
six or seven times over more than a
"I was crying almost every day. I just
wanted to (be with them)," she said. "I
just wanted to know, 'Are they okay?'
'Are they eating well?'"
The crisis came whenthe host family
went on vacation and couldn't watch
the boys anymore. And kids weren't old
enough to join their parents at the Sal-
Oscar assured AJ he wouldn't be
sleeping on the streets alone. "I’m not
(going) anywhere," he told his son. "I’m
gonna stay with you."
But their luck changedthat same day
when Safe Families for Children called
about an opening at the St. Joseph
Shelter in Mt. Angel.
The shelter allows up to 12 families to
live together. Each family has their own
room in the dorm-like building, some
with private restrooms.
Families cook their own food, are
given job training and any other help
they need, including counseling.
The Campos family quickly submit-
ted an application. They interviewed
the same day and were told they could
begin sleeping there that night.
"I think that came from God," Oscar
said. “Additionally, they are quite a bit
Adaptive swings ended up costing
$777 apiece, with local funds coming
from Silverton’s popular Daddy-
Daughter Dance (which attracted 800
participants last month) and its Vine
and Brew Festival, among other fund-
Finally, Palmer could share the
news. He wrote a letter to Karis, visited
her in person and honored her at a
Her activism encouraged him just as
he’s lobbying for more community
leadership from youth. This year, he’s
brought the statewide “If I Were Mayor”
contest to the school district, support-
ed a youth advisory council proposal,
and explored extending the high
school’s Interact Club to Silverton Mid-
“This has been a great lesson in how
kids can participate and make a diﬀer-
ence in their community,” he said.
Rotary President Cindy Jones also
visited Karis’ school to honor the ﬁfth-
grader, saying this is the ﬁrst time in
her 10 years with Rotary Club that she
can recall a student animating a pro-
“It’s awesome, and I’m inspired by
it,” she said.
On a cold and drizzly March 31, more
than 30 people gathered at the park,
helping turn a good idea into a good
The new Rotaract Club, for 18-30-
year-olds, installed one swing, while
members of the Rotary Club installed
Once the ladder and tools were tak-
en away, Karis acquiesced to calls that
she try one of the swings she hopes will
help many kids in the future. Grinning,
she climbed aboard and mugged for the
“I feel really proud, and I’m really ex-
cited,” she said.
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