“We don’t permit people to take photos of our building,” she says with a smile as I stand framing shots with my cellphone. A young woman has emerged from the double-doors posted with a caution: No more than 25 people allowed inside at one time. This is our local Oregon Bottle Drop, and we are here because bottles and cans were threatening a takeover!
There is an external drop window, but it’s busy, so my husband volunteers to go inside. It is almost empty, but that’s rare here. I have pulled in to park and found myself flanked by cars on either side. Often those cars are packed with the stuff of lives-lived, plastic bags with clothes spilling out the top, sundry household goods, small grills, cats, dogs.
My county, like so much of this country, struggles to address the challenges of being homeless. An article in the local newspaper published last December says, “During the 2018-19 school year, 1,112 children and students lacked stable and adequate housing at least at some point during the school year.” And for me, the children, the students, have a particular place in my heart—always, yes—but right now in particular.
The woman offers information about the program, that frequency has increased inasmuch as stores are no longer taking any deposits, so “her” site is drawing more from the surrounding towns. I ask about those who may be depending on bottles and cans for income. “Of course they still come,”and a serious look.
This morning I go to the Oregon Bottle Drop website and learn there’s so much I didn’t know about this program. My perusal is cursory, yet I open an account and commit to donating my refunds. I can do something.
My husband joins me in the lot, we say goodbye and thanks, and get into our car. A woman pulls in and parks beside us. She gets out, goes to the back of her car, and propping the trunk open with a piece of firewood, extracts a bag of returns. As we back out, I caution myself not to make assumptions, but her backseat brims with bags and a small dog stares at us over top of it all, the stuff of lives-lived.