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Erica and Ken’s Story

Life’s twists and turns have taken Erica and Ken many places: careers in the military, a jaunt in Europe, and more.  But they never anticipated they would end up here: living in a van, struggling every day to make ends meet for themselves and their young son.  

The journey started when Erica and Ken were laid off from the Midwest factory that employed them both.  Without a steady income, they soon lost their home.  Ken grew up on the west coast and hoped they would find better opportunities out here.  They used all their savings to travel to Eugene and arrived with $70 in their pockets. 

“We've never had any kind of assistance before.  We’ve never used Food Stamps or anything,” Erica says.  

Ken found a job on their second day in Eugene, but even with a steady income, they can’t afford an apartment quite yet.  Erica says she sat in the van and cried for two days, knowing she would have to ask for help somewhere.

Luckily she found the First Place Family Center, a center for families with children who are in transition due to homelessness, job loss, health issues, or other critical problems.  During the day the family can access showers, a kitchen, a computer to search for work, and many other services. 

"I really like this place,” Erica’s son says.  “I feel safe.  There's other kids.  There's a playground and a kitchen and toys."  

At night, they have a safe place to park thanks to the Overnight Parking Program, which provides legal camping spaces for people living in their cars

"We are thankful we found a place like First Place,” Erica says.  She’s working on getting her RN license transferred to Oregon so she can look for work also.  But until the family is stabilized, First Place and the Overnight Parking Program are here for them.