We're visiting on a Wednesday, which means Claudia is back for a shower.
On Wednesdays and Fridays, Claudia and her son Donovan come for free showers at VOA’s Sky Valley campus, and on Thursdays they visit our food bank. 61-year-old Claudia pampers Milo, her small white Applehead Chihuahua, while six-foot, stocky Donovan keeps an eye on Charlie, their beefy Red Heeler/German Shorthaired mix. Claudia talks in stories – mostly about Milo and Charlie – and in numbers: Five lower back surgeries. Three neck surgeries. One artificial right knee. An eviction in August 2018, followed by rolling her blue & silver 1989 GMC Vandura. Then she moved from that totaled van into her 2.5 liter, Forrest Green 1996 Subaru Legacy Outback. For sleeping, Claudia explains: “My daughter would take the driver’s seat, her boyfriend would take the passenger seat, and I would climb in the back with the dogs.” Now it’s Claudia, Donovan, Milo and Charlie in that ’96 Subaru, and they’ve found a property to park on at night on the other side of Sultan. Before that, their parking spots would rotate: the YMCA, Fred Meyer, AM/PM, the Tractor Supply, the 76 station and local parks: Al Borlin, Lewis Street, Traveler’s, Reese, Osprey, Trout Farm. “We cleaned up all the trash that was around those areas while we were there!” beams Claudia.
But they keep coming back to VOA’s Sky Valley campus, at least three days a week: to get showered, and get gas cards, food boxes, dog food, towels, socks, hygiene products, and cookies. To be seen. “We would be starving” if not for the VOA’s Community Resource Center, says Claudia. “VOA accepts us for who we are with no judgment. With me on a limited income and my son losing his job because of the Covid-19, we struggle to survive. And thanks to VOA the amount that they have helped with has kept us afloat a little bit longer!” Then, she’s back to Milo stories, showing a video of her Chihuahua howling like a big dog and laughing like a proud mom.