Marcus Larson/News-Register##Paul Nelson, 57, is one of two homeless men camping across from Walgreens Pharmacy at the corner of Southeast Baker and South Cowls streets. He shares the space with his friend, Rick “Max” McMahon, who is in the hospital suffering from hypothermia and dehydration following a stroke. A GoFundMe account has been established to help Nelson and McMahon.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Paul Nelson, 57, is one of two homeless men camping across from Walgreens Pharmacy at the corner of Southeast Baker and South Cowls streets. He shares the space with his friend, Rick “Max” McMahon, who is in the hospital suffering from hypothermia and dehydration following a stroke. A GoFundMe account has been established to help Nelson and McMahon.
By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Out in the cold

Yet every day, countless people drive by the plastic tarps he shivers under at the tiny homeless camp he’s made for himself at the corner of Southeast Baker and Cowls streets, across from the Walgreens pharmacy.

All the while, McMahon himself remains a visibly invisible man, noticed but getting no more than — literally — a passing thought.

“After his stroke, he sat here for two days without being able to move,” said friend Paul Nelson, who shares the camp with McMahon, next to Linfield College.

The only person who noticed at first was Nelson.

He eventually persuaded McMahon to call 911 and get to the emergency room. By then, the stroke had been compounded by severe hypothermia and dehydration.

Another person who noticed was Corey Herber of McMinnville.

He set up a crowdfunding account on the website GoFundMe Nov. 18 to help Nelson and McMahon. Within 19 hours, people donated more than $500 to help the two men find a place that will get them out of the cold.

Perhaps McMahon and Nelson are not so invisible after all, Herber said. They just needed people to realize that the men under the tarps have names and faces.

And stories.

Nelson and his wife, Dawn Eckhardt, once lived in a duplex in Herber’s neighborhood with two daughters. So Herder has known him for many years.

Nelson said a gaping hole developed in their bathroom. Rather than fix the hole, he said, their landlord decided not to renew their lease.

“That’s how I ended up on the streets,” he said.

The family scattered. The younger daughter went to live with friends, while the older left for Florida.

Nelson’s wife, 57, suffered two strokes. She now lives in Oakwood Country Place. One of the advantages of living on the vacant land across from Walgreens, he said, is that it’s only three blocks from the nursing home.

Some neighbors are not sympathetic. They make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he’s not wanted.

When he first became homeless, he moved to a spot near McDonald’s, on Northeast Norton Lane. But he said, “Two kids came out and said they were going to burn all my stuff, then they were going to burn me.” And he opted to move on.

Neighbors on the other end of town are only a little more cordial, according to Nelson.

He said he first moved to a spot across from his current location, while his wife was still with him. A small tree offered at least a modicum of shelter, he said, but the property owner ordered him to move.

He set up shop across the street, which hasn’t proved much more hospitable. “People often say to me, ‘This is a community place, and the community doesn’t want you here anymore,” he said.

Local police and Linfield College security personnel are kinder, he said. “They tell us just be safe,” he said.

Some local residents show support by bringing food. Others suggest he find shelter somewhere else, like the Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission.

“They’re all full,” he said. “Besides, they won’t take Woofie,” he said, pointing to the chihuahua mix serving as his constant companion.

Herber regularly checks on McMahon and Nelson. And he said, “Stopping by and checking on them, I found Max pretty much on his death bed.”

McMahon has numerous health problems, Herber said, including diabetes. “His blood sugar was going crazy because he’s diabetic,” Herber said.

McMahon also has kidney disease, a condition that forces him to take difficult bus trips to Portland for dialysis.

Herber said the reaction to the fledgling crowdfunding campaign has been encouraging. “The response has been more positive than negative,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said, people sometimes ask why he is helping McMahon and Nelson when there are so many other homeless people in McMinnville.

“A lot of churches are handling that,” he said. “These are guys I just happen to know. I really want to help them.”

McMahon’s condition is slowly improving, Nelson said. A 70-year-old veteran, McMahon might get a few nights after he leaves the hospital, with the help of the Veterans Administration.

“I hope they don’t turn him loose out here on the streets,” Herber said. “He’ll never make it in his condition.”

The GoFundMe account for McMahon and Nelson can be found online at https://www.gofundme.com/btavfu5q.

Comments

TeresaS

It is Corey Herber...not Herder! But good story to get out there!

Ossie Bladine

Fixed here and in the archive. Thanks.

Mudstump

Shame on the local government of Yamhill county for failing to ensure that not one single American veteran EVER sleeps on the streets at night, goes hungry or lacks medical care. It seems to me if our commissioners were the Christians they claim to be this would never happen on their watch.

Seabiscuit

Why is everything in the world that does not meet an individuals way of thinking the fault of the Yamhill County Commissioners?

Instead of making a Political attack on the Commissioners why don't you attack the Department of Veterans Affairs?
Why not offer solutions instead of politic attack?
Solutions such as someone getting in touch with the Vet Rep across the street from the Community Center or:

http://www1.va.gov/homeless/

"No Veteran Should Be Without a Place to Call Home
VA is committed to ending homelessness among Veterans. Our focus is threefold:
•Conducting coordinated outreach to proactively seek out Veterans in need of assistance.
•Connecting homeless and at-risk Veterans with housing solutions, health care, community employment services and other required supports.
•Collaborating with federal, state and local agencies; employers; housing providers, faith-based and community nonprofits; and others to expand employment and affordable housing options for Veterans exiting homelessness.

There is also the ODVA. One gentleman is already in the VA system and apparently getting care at the VAMC in Portland. Has he even talked to them about his situation?

Joel2828

Mudstump, Bigoted religiphobic comments aren't going to help matters.

Mudstump

Joel2828 - "Mudstump, Bigoted religiphobic comments aren't going to help matters."

Since when is it not okay to criticize Christians? Are they above reproach? If they are going to talk the talk then they should walk the walk as well.

TeresaS

-Via Corey Herber
"For all of you who have Been donating we want to thank you very much. We have a sad update about max, he passed last night at 7:30pm at the Willamette Valley medical center. We were very sad to get this news."

Trafik

I am no enthusiastic defender of the Yamhill County Commission but this is hardly their milieu.

Using logic similar to that in your statements, Mudstump, the commissioners would be responsible for all hunger/homelessness/poverty in the county for which there are neither abundant local resources nor local funding -- certainly not enough to eradicate the problem. Is this a community-wide issue about which we should all be concerned and maybe even ashamed? Of course, but to hang it around the necks of Christians alone is disingenuous, especially when there are hundreds of local Christians working to help people in need. (St. Barnabas, Church on the Hill, First Baptist and so many other local Christian communities with active aid ministries.)

Mudstump

Trafik - I don't hold our commissioners solely accountable for homelessness, nor do I hold all Christians responsible. I recognize and have said here many times that many people of faith do great work and often operate selflessly without a need for public displays of service and recognition. These are folks that truly walk the walk and my hat is off to them in a huge way. However, our county commissioners are charged with serving the needs of the people of this county and when we have people sleeping on the streets I feel they have not adequately focussed on helping those in need. I believe that if a person says they are religious and talks about how they "honor" veterans then they should put up or shut up. RIP Max.

Mudstump

It is often said that we can judge a community by how we treat our most vulnerable. How is that going in Yamhill county?

Mudstump

Trafik - The commissioners are responsible for a department called, Yamhill County Public Health. I do think that homelessness is within their sphere of responsibility and authority.

Trafik

Cities all over the country are dealing with homelessness like never before. Oregon counties with commissioners who profess faiths other than Christian and/or no faiths at all are experiencing similar issues with similar far-from-satisfactory results. It's easy to condemn a group of people with whom one disagrees philosophically but to do so specifically because they profess the Christian faith rings hollow and comes across sounding bigoted and mean-spirited.

I find it difficult to believe this situation would have unfolded significantly differently if our commissioners professed other-than-Christian faiths or none at all. Given unlimited funding and resources, most people in positions of power would act compassionately and eradicate homelessness, regardless of which faith (if any) they professed.

Megan

This makes me so, so sad. I drove by this poor man's camp several times and never did I stop once to see how I could help. He served our country and was homeless and has now passed on. I'm so sad that we can't take better care of those who served their country! No one deserves to live on the street and be homeless - but especially after they put their life on the line for your and my freedom! I'm thankful to the person who checked on him and took him to the E.R., even though it was too late! He deserves a hero's funeral!

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