OREGON CITY, OR — Vietnam War veteran and West Linn native Richard Adams had been homeless in the south Clackamas County area for more than one year, living out of his car, when he ran into Oregon City police officer and homeless liaison Mike Day at the Oregon City Police Department the week before Thanksgiving 2017.
Adams, 65, had returned to Clackamas County in 2016 after leaving his manufactured home in Wisconsin. According to Day, Adams’ wife left him, and with no other reason to stay in the midwest returned to his hometown with only what he could carry in his vehicle.
A former Marine and Clackamas County deputy, Adams was surviving only on what he received through social security and his VA benefits, Day recently wrote on his popular blog, which documents various interactions he has during his homeless outreach in the Oregon City area.
"Mr. Adams told me he grew up in West Linn, where his father was a West Linn Police Officer," Day wrote. "(Adams) went to West Linn High School and joined the Marine Corps at 17 years old. He’s a combat veteran, twice deployed to Vietnam… (and he) followed in his father’s law enforcement footsteps, working as a deputy at the Clackamas County Sheriff Office for a short time in the ’70s."
Richard Adams. Courtesy: Oregon City Police Department
After meeting with Day and working out a plan for getting himself a new place to live that wasn’t his car, the pair reached out to local organizations to help.
"We worked together to find a place (Adams) could afford to live," Day wrote. "I reached out to a friend at the Three Rivers Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1324, who suggested I contact Fort Kennedy. Fort Kennedy is a non-profit organization with a mission to help all veterans move forward in their lives after military service."
Between Fort Kennedy and Do Good Multnomah, another veterans assistance organization, Day was able to get Adams into a temporary living situation that — if nothing else — got him off the street and under a proper roof for a short time.
Growing up with his mother and sister in what the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would define as a homeless situation, Day has experienced struggle first-hand, and he understands the embarrassment and difficulty a person could have asking for help — especially a person like Adams, who’d otherwise been self sufficient his entire life.
Homelessness is not such an abstract thing, Day told Patch.
"It’s important to recognize that homelessness is an individual, and it needs to be addressed individually," he said. "All people experiencing homelessness can’t be lumped together. The police and city are working together in innovative ways to make a difference… (but) it’s got to be a community effort to see any real change."
To continue helping Adams, Day ultimately got in touch with a local, unnamed business owner — who also just so happened to be a former Marine as well.
"The business owner, who has been of great assistance to me in the past, was eager to help," Day wrote. "As a former Marine himself, the business owner mentioned the motto, ‘no man left behind.’ While we waited for a more permanent solution for Mr. Adams’ living situation at Do Good Multnomah, the business owner provided a place for Mr. Adams to eat and hang out during the day when the shelter was closed."
After about a month more of working with Adams and other groups, Day was able to help his new friend move into a place he could afford just before Christmas.
"It’s exciting to know Mr. Adams is no longer homeless. He is certainly deserving of a place to call home," Day wrote. "I’m thankful for the community members and organizations who helped Mr. Adams along the way. I look forward to checking up on him from time to time to see how he is doing."
Day knows public opinion on homelessness is Oregon City varies from person to person, and he also understands that each Oregon City resident is entitled to their own opinions and perspectives; Day still hopes, however, that folks will see the bigger picture — in that we’re all here together, and it only makes sense that we lift each other up whenever we can.
By maintaining the blog on his outreach efforts, Day said he hopes people will get a different perspective of the people they see sleeping on the sidewalks or rummaging through garbage cans downtown.
"I think it’s cool to give the public some substance to these folks and humanize their situations," he said. "We certainly aren’t without our issues with homelessness, but our department has an innovative approach: Instead of arrest and remove, we try to find solutions. Otherwise, homelessness is just a revolving door."
Day said people he’s helped — just since he began the liaison position in July 2017 — have graduated from substance abuse programs, going from in-patient programs to sober living.
"I’m of the opinion that just because someone abuses doesn’t mean they want to," Day explained. "Some folks do want help… and there are often a variety of different factors contributing their problems."
So, Day will continue to help through the duration of his assignment as homeless liaison for the Oregon City Police Department, lifting up whomever he can as he’s able. All he asks is for the greater Oregon City community to lend a hand when they can as well.
"Call if you see something," he said. "Even if you can’t help directly, let us know where there’s a problem so we can address it. More togetherness will never hurt anything."
Image via Oregon City Police Department