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2/8/2017 12:15:00 PM
Dwelling on transitions
Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel
Joan Foley of Holy Family Parish and Rosanne Sachson prepare a room for the arrival of homeless women at Martha and Mary Home in Southeast Portland. 

Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel

Joan Foley of Holy Family Parish and Rosanne Sachson prepare a room for the arrival of homeless women at Martha and Mary Home in Southeast Portland. 

Families become self-sufficient


SPRINGFIELD — Homeless families with children have been receiving services through the new G Street Oasis Program here.  

The effort reinforces children’s school attendance and emphasizes housing and employment for the adults. Oasis is working with 15-20 homeless families for an average of three to four months per family, serving an estimated 200 people during the first year of operation.

Tom Mulhern, executive director of Catholic Community Services of Lane County, says the impetus for the new program largely came from homeless families themselves. “We could see the instability of their lives, how hard it was for them to get their kids to school,” he explains, painting a picture of how challenging personal hygiene is when living out of a car — much less trying to keep the kids and everyone’s clothes clean. “It’s a real hassle,” he says. 

The instability of their daily lives contributes to children’s erratic school attendance and poor school performance. Springfield hasn’t had a place for families where there’s access to meals, restrooms, showers, laundry and other necessities.

Mulhern says that most homeless families live with family and friends. Oasis will help in those situations as well. “It enables the host family to do it for longer, because doubling up wears a little thin after a while,” he says.

Catholic Community Services will help with food, clothing and hygiene items, and laundry facilities, and also the opportunity to participate in transitional housing and family support through their case-managed programs. Families will have access to a food pantry for preparing their own meals and snacks, provided by FOOD for Lane County

The Springfield School District serves about 600 homeless children annually. Catholic Community Services of Lane County helps about 250 homeless families with children annually.  

— Ed Langlois

How to help

The G Street Oasis Program in Springfield is recruiting volunteers who can work a weekly morning or afternoon shift Monday-Friday. Contact Amanda Wirkkula, (541) 345-3628, ext. 390. 

Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

A Southeast Portland house that served as a Catholic hospice is now a place for another kind of transition. The home of the late Bob and Evelyn Dieringer of Holy Family Parish will shelter a community of women seeking to make a move from life on the streets. 

After homeless Portlanders froze in severe weather, attention has turned to better mental health care with housing. The new Martha and Mary Home is on top of that mission. 

The ministry for the dying opened in 2010 but had to close in 2015. The 11 surviving Dieringer children decided to give the family house to Catholic Charities of Oregon. The idea is to help women who have been homeless get used to living inside and establishing self-reliance. 

The name — Martha and Mary — refers to the Gospel story in which sisters perform both physical and spiritual tasks and learn from Jesus that the spiritual is the greater part. 

Catholic Charities will help residents learn the art of asset building — managing money and other resources. Mental health help and other services will be available. 

“It’s incredibly awesome,” says Vicki Ford, longtime pastoral associate at Holy Family and daughter of Bob and Evelyn Dieringer. She has seen many homeless women in Portland and admires the mission of Catholic Charities. 

She likes the approach of building self-reliance along with providing shelter and supplies. 

Ford is certain her parents, who were active in church and charity, would approve. 

“They are shining down on this good work,” she says.

Ford would like to see the women secure permanent housing after their time in her old house. 

“I hope they feel they belong to the community,” she says, adding that Holy Family will give them warm invitations to join parish life. 

Residents moved in Jan. 17. Each room had been lovingly furnished and decorated by volunteers, including many from Holy Family. 

“This will feel like a home,” says Chris Beiser, a volunteer from the parish. 

Joan Foley, another Holy Family parishioner, says the situation of older homeless women has become critical. Foley, who knew Bob and Evelyn Dieringer, likes the approach of offering housing along with self-sufficiency help. 

“We want them to be successful,” Foley says.  

The house is located in Eastmoreland. Nearby residents at first were unsure of the hospice and then of the transitional home. Most are now supporters. One neighbor, among the last to come around, eventually became a handyman for the ministry. 


Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, February 13, 2017
Article comment by: Sharon Miller

What a wonderful place for homeless women to finally feel safe.
Many years ago I found myself homeless in Los Angeles. The system was so overwhelmed that no housing was available. I literally spent weeks on the streets in Skid row, scared, confused and lost. My life changed forever, and has been a "Recovery" process ever since.
If it were not for the Catholic Church, the kindness of others, and a "Safe place" to call home in transitional housing, I do not know if I would be alive today.
We all need to show as much support as possible to such a wonderful, life saving program.
There is no fear worse than being on the streets, alone, on a cold night with nothing but the clothes on your back.
Pray for this program, pray the women who need help, and pray that one day places like this will no longer be needed.

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