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Homeless community speaks out, 'Homeless Summit' this Friday at Mill Casino

(KCBY image)

COOS BAY, Ore. -- Organizers are preparing a "Homeless Summit" at the Mill Casino this Friday, April 14.

Attendees will hear many topics including the state of homelessness in Coos County and the myths surrounding homelessness.

Those affected by homelessness say it could happen to anyone.

"We came to the Devereux Center and I met Tara,” said Sandra Barton of Barview, “if it hadn't been for her, I don't think we would have made it."

Barton left a bad relationship in Alabama and came to live with folks she knew in Bandon, but one day "they didn't feel it was proper for us to be there, so they brought us to Coos Bay and dropped us off, “Barton said, “me, my daughter and two grandchildren, left us without anything."

She lived in a truck at the North Spit with her daughter and grandchildren for over a year.

Helen Chiaratti says she's been living out of her car for a little over a year, trying to get by making jewelry and burning vinyl records.

She says her life took a turn after her sons got into legal trouble.

"So bad that I couldn't step up and help them; it was out of my hands, explained Chiaratti, who lives in a car in the Coos bay area. “I couldn't get to Sacramento to go see them, so I just went into this mental buckle and I didn't want my family to really know what I've been going through because I don't want to see them this next month; I want myself fixed."

A man nicknamed "Uncle Ray" says he used to make six figures a year before everything fell apart after his divorce.

"I was working side-by-side with this guy, probably making more money than him, and now he's throwing ... at me because I'm walking along the street holding a sign because I don't have anything else; I need help. We're not looking for a handout; we're looking for a hand-up."

We spoke with several people affected by homelessness and their response to us was the same; homelessness doesn't discriminate.

"Anybody out there that thinks their whole life is just perfect, in one moment something medical can happen, something about your family gets your hands tied," said Chiaratti.

"It's sad that people can't see beyond their own nose,” said a homeless woman named Katy in the Coos Bay area, “I mean, homelessness can happen to anybody. I know people that are working, that it's just too hard to find a spot they can get into that they can afford, whatever the case is."

“We're not all bad people,” said Chris Grove, a homeless man in Coos Bay. “There's a few that have problems with this and that, I'm not going to get into it, but you know, we all work hard to survive; that's all we're doing right now, is surviving."

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