By Jill Winsor
On May 13th’s Housing Opportunity Day we saw members concerned about housing needs in communities across the state—from Eugene to The Dalles—people who are housed and unhoused, and one extra special person, my mom.
My mom, Lindsay, grew up in Milton-Freewater, a tiny town in the northeastern corner of Oregon. Below is a photo of the house she lived in. When unexpected circumstances caused her family to move, they were unable to pack all of their things and left the house abandoned.
As a child my mother imagined that marrying a rancher was her only viable pathway out of poverty. When she did well on her SATs, she started to wonder if she might be able to get a scholarship to attend community college because, as she puts it, “the ranchers weren’t lining up.” She started to hope for another future, a future in which she could support herself. She wound up with a full scholarship that covered four years at the University of Oregon and this educational opportunity propelled her into the middle class. After college, my mother moved to Colorado where she met my father and where I spent my childhood in the comfort and the security of a stable home. I stand on her shoulders every day.
Eight years ago my parents moved back to Milton-Freewater. Returning to her hometown with the privilege that comes with a middle-class status, my mom has been saddened to see so many of her neighbors continue in the same cycle of poverty she had known years before. She is particularly troubled by her community’s unmet housing needs. As an active member of her church, she is aware of how many neighbors have sought pastoral assistance because they were facing eviction.
She also volunteers in an after-school tutoring program. Too often her conversations with the children in the program reveal the discomfort, stress and barriers that their living situation creates. She believes that stable housing would do more to help these children learn than the few hours each week that she is able to spend tutoring them.
Unfortunately, the wages earned in Milton-Freewater cannot support the cost of rental housing and for most homeownership is well out of reach.
My mom didn’t come to Housing Opportunity Day because she’s my mom (though that certainly helped). She came because she is an active and engaged member of her community and she won’t be silent in the face of need. She met with her legislators, Senator Hansell and Representative Smith, and helped them to understand how the solutions proposed by the Housing Alliance will help their constituents.
I am incredibly proud of the hard work we all did on Wednesday to advocate for housing resources across the state. And I have to admit that I’m especially proud of Lindsay Winsor, my favorite housing advocate.