Four siblings combed the streets of Portland, passing graffiti-streaked buildings, plywood-covered windows and dozens of tents. They asked several of the city’s homeless residents if they knew where to find a woman named Wendy.
Then they saw her. Wendy, 59, burst into tears. “I love you,” she sobbed, clutching her siblings to her.
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ACTIVISTS PLANT EMPTY TENTS TO ENCOURAGE HOMELESSNESS IN PORTLAND, DRUG COUNSELOR SAYS
“One of the first things she said is, ‘I want to go home. I want off the streets. I can’t do it anymore. I’m tired.’ She had never said that before,” Jason Mitchell, one of Wendy’s 10 siblings, told Fox News.
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After years without knowing where she was, they have now reconnected with Wendy and helped her into a detox program.
It all started with a viral video of Wendy describing what it’s like living on the streets of Portland.
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“It’s a piece of cake, really. That’s why you’ve probably got so many out here,” she said in a video shared by drug counselor Kevin Dahlgren on New Year’s Eve. “They feed you three meals a day, you don’t have to do s— but stay in your tent or party. If you smoke a lot of dope, you can do that.”
But being homeless wasn’t actually easy for Wendy, who lamented the lawlessness on Portland’s streets in Dahlgren’s video. She said someone stole her dentures right out of her tent.
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The post racked up millions of views on Twitter, including by Wendy’s brothers and sisters.
“We just really wanted to just check on her,” Mitchell said. “And so four of us decided to fly to Portland.”
Tents, tarps and shopping carts are omnipresent around Oregon. Last year, the state’s homeless population hit its highest point in more than a decade, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nearly 18,000 people were homeless and more than 11,000 of those were unsheltered like Wendy.
Mitchell, who lives in Salt Lake City, said his older sister got hooked on pharmaceuticals which led to her losing her job. She ended up on the streets of the Pacific Northwest around 2015.
“You have a very special bond with your siblings and you want to help them,” Mitchell said. “I’m sure she feels helpless. Sometimes I feel helpless. I don’t know how to help her.”
Estrangement is common, Dahlgren said.
“Almost every homeless person I meet, they will say, ‘My parents don’t talk to me anymore. My brothers, my sisters hate me,'” he said. “What’s so amazing with this family is that they were just so happy to hear that she was alive and just let go of anything they were feeling about her and say, ‘We just want to help you.’”
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Mitchell and his siblings reached out to Dahlgren, who offered to take them to Wendy. Four of the siblings flew to Portland in late January and walked around the city with Dahlgren until they found their sister.
After the emotional reunion, the siblings formed a plan to help Wendy. Last week part of the family drove an RV to Portland to pick Wendy up and take her back to Utah with them.
“The stars aligned for us a little bit, and we took her right straight from the RV, straight into the detox and checked her in,” Mitchell said.
The program lasts 30 days, during which time Wendy has minimal contact with the outside world. Just a few days in, Mitchell said it’s getting difficult for his sister but that she’s focused on the future.
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“We’re optimistic,” he said. “We all want it to work.”
Mitchell said he’s grateful to the citizens of Portland for taking care of Wendy, but stressed that family needs to be involved in achieving long term solutions.
“I can provide the personal motivation. I know why Wendy would want to get off the streets,” he said. “No social service can provide that kind of specific assistance.”
Dahlgren said he’s “so very proud of Wendy” and hopes her story will inspire other families to reconnect with their loved ones on the streets.
“It doesn’t mean you have to house them, but hope is so important. People need to know that they are loved,” he said. “Once Wendy realized ‘I am loved,’ everything came into place.”
To hear more about Wendy’s journey so far, click here.
H/T Fox News (read more at FoxNews.com)
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