Sandra Perez, Director of Asset & Facilities Management of Caritas Housing at Catholic Charities of Oregon, talks about the resiliency of the wildfire survivors in Medford, Oregon, the challenges they still face, and our agency’s efforts to provide ongoing legal services, financial relief support, and trauma-based counseling to the individuals and families impacted by the devastating wildfires that tore through southern and western Oregon in September 2020. Read her story:
“This was the second time I had the opportunity to visit Medford to interact with the wildfire victims. It is an amazing opportunity to be on the front lines of the work that Catholic Charities does to help the most vulnerable. It was a very touching experience to meet with so many families and individuals who lost so much, but who are so resilient and truly survivors.
The families I had the privilege to meet with are so similar to mine and are facing such difficult situations, but I what I heard from them all in the midst of these challenges is how grateful they were for the help that Catholic Charities can provide. They each felt so blessed because of that. I had the opportunity to speak with them in their own language—Spanish—and I was able to provide information on how to place their names on some waitlists of affordable housing apartments in the area.
Even though it has been six months after the fires, many of these families still do not have permanent housing.
They’ve had to move from one place to another since the temporary shelter they had found after the fires destroyed everything is no longer available. On top of this, housing prices have skyrocketed and many of these families and individuals haven’t been able to find a permanent job to help them with their monthly expenses. On this second trip to Medford, I also noticed the increase in necessity for assistance in counseling and help coping with stress and anxiety.
I’m so grateful that Catholic Charities was able to partner with Pacific University during this visit as well as UNETE and United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. This is something that we have to keep doing. Rebuilding is a long process, and we need to continue to do all we can to help these families and individuals.”