Ruthie’s story: Providence House - Portland, Oregon
Ruthie, 71, grew up in many different places, traveling often because her father was in the Air Force. In her adult life she eventually settled in San Diego, but after eight years she could no longer afford the cost of living there.
She bounced around to different apartments, hotels and living with friends, never having a stable place to call home. She experienced housing insecurity for 20 years and was evicted when she couldn’t pay her rent. “I slept on an air bed for four or five years. It was the easiest thing to pack up if I had to go,” Ruthie says.
She worked as a medical transcriptionist until her profession began being outsourced. A variety of health issues and constant pain also prevented her from working. She had battled breast cancer and struggled with other health issues including fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety and PTSD. At 64, Ruthie’s sole source of income was social security. She didn’t feel like she had control of her life or her health because of her constantly changing living situation.
In 2010, she moved to Portland, Ore., where she spent the next four years looking for affordable housing. “It is constant stress to not have secure housing. You become hyper vigilant with some things; I was very depressed,” Ruthie says. “A lot of times when I went to sleep, I wished I wouldn’t wake up.”
Ruthie heard about Providence House in Portland through a friend and was excited to learn that she qualified. The wait for an apartment was over a year, but she decided it was worth it.
When Ruthie found out she got an apartment at Providence House, she was excited but nervous. “I didn’t know what to expect. After so many years of bouncing around … the fear of eviction sticks with you,” she says. “It sits on you heavily. Where am I going to go next?”
Her fears began to recede when Providence House’s director told Ruthie on move-in day that she was safe and could stay as long as she wanted. “It was really helpful to get in here and finally be in charge of my life again, instead of being at the whim of whoever I was living with,” she says. “I did a lot of healing here.”
Ruthie describes Providence House as “very supportive, very caring, and not too big so no one gets lost in the community. I would love to see a lot more of this available to seniors,” she says. “With seniors out on the streets, it is heartbreaking.”
To Ruthie, feeling safe in her community and home serves as a foundation for better health and a better life. “In everything that you are doing in your life, you need a place that you feel is safe to go home to.”
About the Providence Supportive Housing Program
Providence House in Portland is one of 16 Providence supportive housing communities in three states - Washington, Oregon and California. The program provides permanent, affordable and safe housing for more than 950 seniors and people with disabilities who have very low incomes. Each location is a caring, respectful community with on-site service coordination to promote independence and aging in place.