MEDFORD — An outpouring of community support has given a local homeless man a brighter outlook on life after a Wednesday Mail Tribune story detailing his discharge from a Medford rehab facility with no place to go.
Roger Paul, a former Crater basketball player and long-time business owner who fell on hard times and has been homeless for nearly two decades, was turned out by Avamere Three Fountains in Medford when his Medicaid benefits ran out.
The facility put him in a taxi Monday and sent him to America’s Best Value motel on Riverside Avenue in Medford. They paid for a three-day stay, but after that, Paul, confined to a wheelchair after several surgeries, was on his own after Thursday.
After the story ran, however, community members sprang into action.
A former classmate, who asked to remain anonymous, paid for a month-long stay at the motel, and other people offered to extend his stay even longer. Gift cards, clothing, fruit and meals have been dropped off for Paul at the motel.
On Thursday evening, an emotional Paul flashed a wide smile as friends stopped by to help him move to a more handicap-friendly suite.
Paul said friends, ranging from former homeless companions to classmates he “hadn’t seen since we all were at Crater” had called to check on him or come by with meals and well wishes.
“I’ve heard from so many people, you just wouldn’t believe. I couldn’t believe so many people would want to help,” said Paul.
On Friday, Paul’s former classmate and longtime friend Debbie Saxbury reported that case workers were working to have Paul readmitted into a care facility, while state long-term care ombudsman Fred Steele, whose agency serves as a watchdog over various health care organizations in Oregon, reported that Paul had been reevaluated and deemed eligible for Medicare benefits and would return to a facility soon.
A previous evaluation had deemed the man, who cannot stand for more than a few seconds, was not disabled. Steele said he was pushing for a more thorough investigation of the events leading up to Paul’s abrupt discharge.
Saxbury said Avamere officials, who have declined to return repeated calls from the Mail Tribune, said Paul had been discharged without an official plan.
“Since he was admitted as homeless, he could be released as homeless,” she said.
Steele said steps were being taken to find a permanent solution for Paul and to determine how the 64-year-old found himself with only a three-day hotel stay following a seven-month stint in the hospital and rehab following the loss of his toes last winter due to frostbite.
“The folks at DHS are working on placement into a community-based setting instead of a nursing facility, maybe something more suited to his needs. They’re also working to ensure safe placement until a permanent placement is found,” Steele said.
“DHS is investigating the circumstances of his discharge. It could be difficult to prove there was some level of manipulation, because he did sign paperwork, but he was unsure what he signed. We believe strongly there was, at a minimum, a lack of informed consent.”
Steele said he had “never referred a case like this” in his years with the state, although another facility in the state had been reported to use “the three-day stay” as a means to discharge residents with nowhere to go, he added.
Paul acknowledged signing paperwork at the Avamere facility but said he did not understand he was being discharged.
“Before they made me leave, there had been a lot of paperwork like those places always seem to have. They said, ‘sign here, sign here, sign here,’” Paul recalled.
“There was so many, I didn’t read it all. Nobody could have. If I had tried to read it, I’d still be there reading. So I just signed it like they told me I needed to.”
Melissa Mayne, director at Compassion Highway Project, said she had received numerous calls and social media posts about Paul, whom her organization has known for years.
Mayne, relieved to see Paul being cared for by the community, said Paul is known for always saving napkins from local restaurants to donate for Mayne to use at her community feeds.
“We have known Roger for a long time and found him in pretty bad shape more than once. We’re so relieved to see the community reaching out to help him,” she said.
Hotel manager Jay Patel said calls and donations dropped off for Paul have been heartwarming, with several local people offering to help extend Paul’s stay.
Paul said the community support gave him a new perspective on life after some admittedly dark thoughts last week.
“Ya know, I never dreamed I’d end up like this. ... I never imagined I would end up in a wheelchair with no place to go. But then I just can’t believe all these people coming here. They want to help with my room. They’ve brought me lunch. Who even does that? I’m so grateful and I’m just so surprised. People know me from around here, but I just wouldn’t have thought they would help me the way that they have. People just really do love old Roger.”
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.