When Kristen Raffin arrived at St. Vincent de Paul’s (SVdP) 410 Garfield Safe Sleep Site in July 2021, she’d already been homeless for more than two years. She returned to her hometown of Eugene, Ore., after nine years in Colorado where she studied and then worked as a certified nursing assistant.
Things changed for Kristen when she received a call. She had been working at a level-two trauma center at one of the largest hospitals in Colorado when she learned of her mother’s stage IV cancer diagnosis. She immediately left her job, sold her belongings, gave up her apartment, and prepared to move home to take care of her mother. Ultimately, Kristen had a change of heart as she boarded the plane for home.
“I did not want to see her die,” she admits. “I felt like it was going to be more harmful to my psyche watching her die and so my only option at that point was to go into a homeless shelter and restart in Colorado.”
Kristen began working at a long-term care facility while simultaneously living in a homeless shelter. She says as her mother’s health deteriorated; she began to lose her way.
“I didn’t want to work, I just wanted to be sad.”
Through it all, Kristen says she never gave into substance abuse, prided herself on maintaining her status on the state board of nursing, and never wanted to compromise that. Still, she suffered through a devastating loss of hope.
Path to Healing
Kristen returned to Oregon to see her mother and say goodbye, but on June 22 of 2022 her mother passed away. Afterward, Kristen moved between various shelters in Lane County until she came to the SVdP-operated Safe Sleep Site at 410 Garfield St.
“This place has been the most helpful to me being successful,” Kristen says. “Getting back up on my feet and not letting one little bloop in the road drag me down for the rest of my life.”
Through the encouragement of staff at 410 and Kristen’s own hard work, she got back to work at a nearby convenience store.
“They’re all so caring and they motivate you,” Kristen says of the SVdP service and case-management staff. “They don’t fail to tell you you’re doing a good job.”
Now, Kristen is about to move into an affordable-housing unit with SVdP helping pay the security deposit. Afterward, she and her case manager will go out to buy furniture and other necessities to make it a home. Kristen says her long-term goal is to return to work as a long-term care provider.
“It was their faith in me that made me buck up and say, ‘I don’t want this life forever,’” says Kristen, who didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to thank her SVdP supporters before moving on to permanent affordable housing.
Kristen Raffin’s story is similar to many that we see through our programs at SVdP. Becoming homeless can happen suddenly, or it can result from a series of events. And despite the stereotypes, drugs and alcohol are not always a factor. Regardless, here at SVdP we believe that everyone has value, deserves respect, and can get back on the path to stability and housing through encouragement and support.
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