Injured & facing eviction, HOPE fades

By SANNE SPECHT

For the Tidings

ASHLAND — Mother and daughter sit side by side in their tiny trailer, nursing their many broken bones from an automobile accident and hoping someone can help stem a tide that is pulling them toward homelessness.

"I don't know where to turn anymore," says Pamela Hein, 42. "We have until Wednesday to pay our rent in full, or we're supposed to be out of here."

The pair say they owe just over $1,000 in rent and utilities on their small trailer in The Pines Mobile Home Park off Siskiyou Boulevard.

"We owe $1,053.66 — that's including late fees, electric bills and the lights," says Anja, Pamela's 17-year-old daughter.

The Heins have applied at every social-service agency they can think of for help, they say.

"They all just tell us the same thing, 'There is no money,' " says Anja.

Meanwhile, the clock on their eviction notice is ticking, Pamela says.

The Heins could get emergency financial aid from the HOPE Chest, a community funding resource coordinated by United Way, if only the chest wasn't empty, says United Way Director Dee Anne Everson.

A poor economy has created greater needs from those living on the ragged edge of poverty, leaving the HOPE Chest depleted.

"Even a little bit of money can provide a little bit of stability for the long term," Everson says. "We need this money to stop them from cascading into being jobless and homeless."

The Heins were passengers in a car that tumbled off Tolman Creek Road the night of Sept. 25. The brakes locked on the vehicle before it flew off the road and down the hillside, flipping several times before landing. Pamela was hospitalized for 11 days with several broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken scapula and a broken collarbone, she says.

A large section of broken bone juts up against the skin of Pamela's shoulder. She will need an operation to recover from her injury, her daughter says.

Anja also broke her collarbone and cracked three ribs, badly bruising her lungs and fracturing several discs in her spine. She was in the hospital for six days, her mother says.

"We have no insurance. We have nothing. This accident totally wiped us out," Pamela says.

Created by charitable donations from within the Jackson County community and a $16,000 infusion in Federal Emergency Management Agency money, the HOPE Chest's $52,000 emergency stash has helped purchase everything from dentures to diabetes supplies to diapers, says Everson.

"The very first thing we bought was a cord of wood for a senior woman," says Everson. "She had taken her grandkids in and they were living in her house. They didn't have any heat."

It also helped out people like the Heins by covering rent or mortgages.

Anja struggles to stand with the aid of a cane. Life was no picnic for the pair prior to last month's accident. Both had been laid off from their jobs at a local fast-food restaurant. The breaks in their steady but meager paychecks began taking a toll on the family finances.

"We got behind on our electric bills," Anja says.

Pamela found work at a dog-grooming salon, but the poor economy ended that position. Pamela began bucking hay at a friend's ranch. And Anja was heading back to school — then the accident happened.

"It's been pretty much downhill since the accident," Anja says.

A recent study on breaking the cycle of poverty showed agencies such as the United Way must have a flexible fund source available for stop-gap aid, Everson says.

Earlier this year, Everson was able to quickly cut a $97 check to repair a woman's car, which allowed the working mother to keep her delivery job — and her family intact, Everson says.

"The loss of a car can lead to the loss of a job which can quickly lead to the loss of housing," Everson says. "It's an easy stream to go down."

Chris Strozenski, 29, was with the Heins the night of the accident. Ejected from the vehicle, Strozenski says he was lucky to suffer only minor injuries, and he is doing what he can to help his friends who are in stabilizing slings. He runs errands and helps with tasks that are currently impossible for the Heins.

"They are great girls," says Strozenski. "They really care about others. It would be nice if somebody would come in and help them."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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