Kate Adair lives in a women’s shelter in Corvalis, Oregon as she works toward more stable housing.
We spoke of her journey that led to homelessness, her love of singing, and her desire to once again have a kitchen for cooking, a bathtub and a door that locks.
I met Kate at the Corvalis Daytime Drop-in Center.
I became homeless two years ago
“When you don’t have a permanent address, not having someplace for your mail to go is a nightmare. You have it sent forward to general delivery, sent forward. And then we don’t get documents that we need to get from the state or from the government. Simple things. I’m still waiting for my social security card. A lot of people don’t have their food cards for the same reason. You know, they just don’t have a stable place to be so that they can be there long enough to get mail.
I became homeless two years ago. My boyfriend at the time—who’s since passed away—we had gotten our HUD voucher. We got a great apartment, loved my neighbors, really a perfect place. And unfortunately Jason had some mental health issues and he had a full on psychotic sort of a break where he was seeing things that weren’t there and they were very threatening things. So he felt he had to protect me and our home. And it all culminated with him being on the curb outside in handcuffs. And one of our neighbors that wasn’t so kind came around the corner and took a picture of it, with the cops leaning over him, and sent it to the homeowners of that particular complex.
We got a 30-day, no-cause eviction notice. And that same month I was in an accident and managed to do damage to my foot, and it put me in a wheelchair for two years. It all happened at the same time. So when I got out of the hospital, I was homeless and I have been ever since. And this last March, Jason passed away from heart failure and alcohol addiction.”
We were both lucky
“I suppose I’d never thought it would [never happen to me]. Because I just thought naively that good things will happen to good people. And if it’s completely wrong, then it’s not going to happen. It’s completely wrong to give a no-cause 30-day eviction notice with the housing crunch as it was then, as it still is now. There wasn’t any possibility of finding a place within that timeframe. And then me being newly stuck in a wheelchair and trying to find something that’s wheelchair accessible. There’s a very small group of possibilities.
Well, we had a little money saved up. And Jason and I lived in a fleabag hotel for a month or two. And after that we ended up living under the overpass bridge. In winter, in the mud. In Eugene.
I ended up back in the hospital because I had a serious wound on my foot and he came in to the hospital drunk and in a rage and I just had enough. So I broke up with him and that’s how I ended up here in Corvallis.
But we didn’t stay broke up for long. He followed me here.
How can I describe it? Demoralizing. It wasn’t a tent under the overpass. It was blankets. I mean, we’d tried to get help, but a lot of places because he was an alcoholic…he was never violent, but he was loud. And that kept us from being in programs that could have helped us a little bit more. And although neither of us had had any dealings with drugs, his alcohol was enough to keep us out and I wasn’t willing to leave him. The idea of him dying under that bridge alone. I couldn’t let that happen.
We were both lucky. He was a good man.”
It’s always wet
“Wet. It’s always wet. You just cuddle up and try to sleep. And you’re always hyper-aware of your surroundings because it’s not the safest way to live. Being a woman, even though Jason was there with me, he could have easily been overtaken if somebody really wanted to get at me.
He grew up street fighting in New York. So he taught me a lot of self-defense tricks that made me feel more confident knowing I could handle myself if I were in a violent situation.
He made me laugh every day. And I did the same for him. We were each other’s tenuous hold on humanity. On being human. And the world might treat us differently. They look at us and say, ‘oh, they must be on drugs.’ Or, ‘there’s a good reason why they’re homeless or they look like that’ or whatever. And in actuality, there really isn’t a good reason.
You know, people say, ‘but you have income.’ For instance, I get disability. Okay. I do. But what I don’t have is two grand in my back pocket that it would cost for first deposit. Utilities. And so you want to know why I’m homeless? Well, that’s it. [That cushion. That little bit of stability.] It doesn’t exist for 99% of us.”
People make assumptions
“If I were dirty or unkempt, it would be much worse. And it is for those girls that don’t have the best hygiene or the nicest clothes. They get looked down on and prejudiced against. People make a lot of assumptions on what we can or cannot do for ourselves.”
“Music is magic for me. I sing. I’ll go find a place by myself and just sing my ass off for a couple hours. Anything that hits my ear right. Intelligent lyrics. That’s my thing.
I try to do a lot of breathing, not just for proper posture and singing, but also use that breathing technique just to breathe and keep calm, keep my inner peace. It’s a precious, precious thing. I feel like I’m in the eye of the storm and it’s swirling all around me. And if I can just stay calm, then maybe, that’s my superpower.”
A door that locks
“I really miss cooking. So I want my own kitchen. I want a bathtub and I want a door that locks, everything else is gravy.
I’m actually looking at a place this Sunday. I’ve been blessed by having a gentleman in my life that wants to help, at least get me out of the shelter and I’m going to let him help me.”
“This life doesn’t lend to a whole lot of hope or faith in people.
There isn’t room in this world to be trusting, believing and hoping. You just get crushed too many times. Yeah, I do [have hope]. I just don’t think it has any place in this world. In my situation. I can’t afford to hope or believe in people.
And even worse is people that prey on women that are in the same boat that are desperate for male companionship or some kind of close connection with another human being. There’s predators out there that prey on women like that. And they know where to find women that will believe anything. Some kind of a relationship, some kind of a hope for this big, beautiful world that they’re being promised. And it’s all a scam. So that’s why I say hope is a foolhardy emotion and not alive in the homeless person’s life.”
I am worthy
“I’m an intelligent, worthy woman. I might be destitute. I might be homeless. But I’m a lady and I expect to be treated as such. It would be nice.
Don’t give up. I get through it. You have to be really courageous to live an authentic life and be strong-willed. Don’t let anything make you lay down and give up.
Don’t let depression and addiction rob you from us because every one of us, every single person deserves a life. Don’t ever think it’s weakness to ask for help.”
-Have you ever been in a tenuous housing situation?
-When have you felt vulnerable?
-Have you ever felt misunderstood?
-Have you ever had trouble staying warm?
-Have you felt the judgment of others?
-When have you felt demoralized? What made it difficult to recover from that?
-Who would you not give up on?
-What is your superpower?
-What gives you hope? Have you ever felt hopeless?
-When have you asked for help? Was it easy? Did help follow?