When Lauren and her husband moved to rural La Pine/ North Klamath County three years ago, they were excited to discover a new place where they had a little more space and room to breathe. They had moved from a Midwest metropolis to purchase their home in rural Central Oregon, in hopes of spending more time outdoors and getting to know a new community.
During their first year, while settling in and getting to know their new surroundings, Lauren realized how difficult it was to find a job in the area. Particularly in La Pine, and especially in rural La Pine/North Klamath County, finding consistent employment was a struggle. Neither Lauren (a CNA in-home caregiver for hospice patients) nor her husband (an auto mechanic and did home remodels) had ever struggled to find work in the Midwest.
However, with transportation to Bend nearly nonexistent and a hard-pressed job market in the La Pine area, their savings was dwindling and they were worried what financial struggles lay ahead. They had never had difficulty navigating systems like health care, employment, or services in the past. One day, as Lauren was using the La Pine Library, she noticed a flyer for Thrive on the bulletin board. As she read through the list of resources available- she was relieved there was an organization that could help her connect.
Lauren started meeting with Thrive on Fridays at the La Pine library, and was able to connect with essential services like health insurance (OHP), health providers at the La Pine Community Health Center, and at times when they had no income coming in- LIHEAP Energy Assistance and SNAP Food Benefits. After each interaction with Thrive, whether face-to-face or over the phone, Lauren says she, "felt that our issues were addressed. We felt like things were going to work out, or someone was going to help us navigate our way through something. It made us feel a lot better...I've witnessed other interactions between people and Thrive [Advocates] and I've only ever seen kindness and empathy toward those [Thrive] has worked with."
Lauren described how essential it is to have Thrive available in the library and La Pine Community Kitchen for residents of south Deschutes, Klamath, and Lake counties. She also noted how crucial it is to have someone help with resources that are only available online- like job applications, health insurance, and other basic services. The pandemic has only exacerbated needs for basic services, and has made it even more difficult for folks that do not have technology access or literacy, which is more common in rural areas. The hardest part of the pandemic in rural areas, Lauren notes, has been a decrease in jobs and closure of offices, particularly the library. Though now residents can access the La Pine Library in 30 minute increments, she would like to see more computer education and access incorporated into services in the future.
When asked what she would like people to know about folks that live in La Pine/ North Klamath:
"Programs that help individuals in need of assistance (whatever that is) are so absolutely necessary, especially for this region. From what I have seen out here I can't believe how many people need assistance. All of these programs are needed, especially the ones that have compassion and empathy and realize that often there is a timeline for the need. It may be the last time someone is able to ask for help- and services should be there for them."