Homeless woman set to graduate from Clark College

Tammy Chalcroft (KATU News)

One graduate at Clark College's commencement Thursday night will stand out -- not because she could be the other graduates' mom, or even grandmother -- but because she's homeless.

Tammy Chalcroft, 59, moves her motorhome along with her family each and every day, but she makes sure she stays close to Clark College's campus. She started school four years ago after both she and her husband were laid off and sleeping in a park.

"I just got up every morning about 6 a.m., came and got in the shower and went to class. It was probably a Godsend because I had a place be during the day, you know?" she said.

Chalcroft says that up until a few years ago she had always been middle class, always had a home.

"I just never thought I’d end up being homeless. I was sitting in the park going 'this can’t be real. This can’t be my life.'"

Now her temporary home doesn't have power to run the water pump, lights, or refrigerator.

The toilet works, but it's a luxury since it has to be dumped at a sanitary station.

"We don't have money to buy gas to go across town."

The family does get food stamps and some social security dollars, but it's just enough to survive and finish her classes.

Health problems haven't made the challenge any easier. She's been in the hospital four times in the last four years, including just this last winter, when pneumonia knocked her out of commission for three weeks. That was right in the middle of finishing one her last required classes, that wouldn't be available again until fall.

So she studied extra hard, put in the extra hours, and passed the class.

She hopes to become a paralegal one day, helping homeless families like her own.

"I really would like to get a home for my family again," she said. "I had all these kids and didn't even get to finish raising them. So that's my goal - get a job so I can at least get a house. I see a light at the end of the tunnel and this time I don't think it's a train. I think it's actually daylight."

Chalcroft isn't alone. Last winter, the college did a survey and 7 percent of the students said they're homeless. About a quarter of the students said they weren't sure month-to-month where they'd be living.

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