Amber

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Amber’s story unfolds in Grants Pass, Oregon, a narrative that demands our attention and speaks volumes about the harsh reality of homelessness. Living in a tent, Amber navigates life with resilience, confronting daily challenges that too often remain unseen by society at large.

From the constant threat of losing her possessions to law enforcement to battling the elements in Oregon’s unforgiving climate, Amber’s experiences highlight the profound obstacles those in her situation face. “This tent is my home. It’s all I’ve managed to keep after the police discarded my new tent. It’s barely holding together now—the zipper hardly works, making it difficult to stay warm,” she reveals, giving voice to her relentless fight for survival.

Amber’s tale is a sobering reflection on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost her her job and thrust her into homelessness. Her personal plight, however, is a window into broader societal issues, including the criminalization of homelessness. Over 18 months, Amber has been fined 30 times, each ticket costing $300, simply for existing without a home. She’s compelled to move her belongings every five days, a rule enforced regardless of weather conditions.

The dehumanization faced by Amber and others in her situation is stark. Prohibited from using basic amenities like propane for warmth or cooking, they are stripped of their dignity and survival means. “We might have phones, but we can’t charge them. It feels like they’re taking everything from us because they don’t want to see us. To them, we’re trash,” Amber laments.

Amber also touches on the systemic barriers that keep her and others from breaking the cycle of homelessness, such as the difficulty in securing employment and housing when basic human needs, like clean clothes and showers, are unmet. “Even if you land a job, how do you keep it when you’re constantly on the move and risk losing everything if you’re not there when they decide to clear your tent?” she questions.

A particularly tragic moment in Amber’s story is the loss of her son’s urn during a police sweep, a personal tragedy that underscores the human cost of such policies. “They threw away his urn. They didn’t know, but that doesn’t change my loss. And they don’t care,” Amber says, her voice a mix of grief and outrage.

Her narrative is set against the backdrop of legal battles over Grants Pass’s controversial laws against public sleeping and camping, which are seen by many as criminalizing homelessness. The Supreme Court’s upcoming deliberation on these laws signals a critical moment in the national discourse on homelessness and the rights of unhoused individuals.

Amber’s journey is a call to action, urging us to confront the realities of homelessness as a pressing humanitarian crisis. Her story, marked by vulnerability and an indomitable spirit, challenges us to stand in solidarity with those facing homelessness and work towards a more compassionate and equitable society.

For more information on the Johnson V Grants Pass Supreme Court case, click here.


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