At 10 a.m. on a drizzly Wednesday morning Anthony sits down at a table with Lori Stephens at the First Christian Church in downtown Corvallis.
The church rents space that the daytime drop-in center uses to serve the homeless and others who need to get out of the cold and perhaps have a meal.
Anthony is homeless, a man of 30 who longs to get back to his home turf in Coos Bay. A former meth addict — he says he has been clean for nearly four years — Anthony has worked in construction, restaurants and retail but says his dyslexia makes construction a better bet than the other two options.
He said he has an 8-year-old son in Ohio who is living with his ex-wife, and another son with a different woman is on the way in a couple of months. The breakfast he had at the drop-in center was his first meal in three or four days.
All of this we learn as Stephens, a local architect and community activist, “interviews” Anthony. She posts short stories and photos on a Facebook page called Facing Homelessness Corvallis. She identifies her subjects by their first names, and the Gazette-Times is following that practice for this story.
Stephens began the project about a year ago after seeing a TED talk by Rex Hohlbein, a Seattle architect who started his the first homeless Facebook page and encouraged others to copy the idea in their states. Stephens’ page is the first in Oregon.
“It’s really hard to be homeless,” Stephens said. “When you are homeless and walking down the street. they give you a bad look and don’t want to talk with you. Sometimes people will cross the street to avoid them.”
People she interviews often ask her how they might get a job or seek advice on where they can camp. Most tell stories that are believable. One told a story about writing songs for Christina Aguilera. And many, too many she said, are battling mental illness.
Stephens has a nonintrusive, counselor-type approach to interviews. She listens. Takes a few notes. And infrequently asks questions. Mostly she just listens. And Anthony is a willing talker.
He tells tales of drug addiction and violence and strained and broken family relationships and work deals gone sour and nervous breakdowns and nights spent on couches and floors. And his hat.
The battered brown ball cap has fishing lures attached to it and a brim made from metal tabs off of lighters.
“This hat is special,” Anthony said. “It reminds me of someplace I don’t want to go back to. It helps me remember good times and bad times. That’s what it symbols.”
Anthony still has family in Coos Bay and hopes to get his own family together.
“Just putting one foot in front of the other and keep on going,” he said.