MULTNOMAH COUNTY'S UNHOUSED
Frani Grover didn’t set out to feed hungry people living unhoused outdoors. It just sort of crept up on her a little bit at a time.
“This thing with the homeless, just happened,” Grover said. “It came to me. I did not look for it.”
“I blame my oldest daughter,” Grover laughed.
Her daughter brought food to the homeless living in camps along the Sandy River, and Grover would go along when her daughter’s husband could not accompany her. But, a few years ago, her daughter found she could not make her weekly rounds.
“It was like the baton was passed to me,” she said. For years Grover would bring down a hot meal every Friday to unhoused folks and then give out bags of food after everyone ate and chatted.
Now, Grover has expanded the feeding efforts by creating a nonprofit organization and working on housing solutions for some of the folks living outside.
She has lots of help. “My volunteers are just amazing,” she said.
Grover has many fans. “Frani spends her time and energy helping get food to the homeless in East County,” Gresham resident John Wolfgang said in nominating her. “Her passion and heart are for the homeless. She offers them transportation to medical and court appointments, and works as a liaison between them and agencies that can help.
She keeps track of their birthdays and brings a cake to celebrate! Her passion is not only meeting the needs of the homeless, but getting to know them and nurture them, improving their lives in whatever way she can,” he said. Grover said she feels a bond with the people living in the tents and lean-tos.
“I really identify with them. I have ADHD, and I know how hard it to meet expectations sometimes,” she said.
“Every homeless person I have ever met has a story,” she said. Grover understands people’s descent into homelessness from tales of difficult foster care situations to catastrophic illness and medical bills.
Grover decided to take her efforts up a notch, and in December of 2019, she incorporated a nonprofit organization to serve the unhoused of East Multnomah County.
The new entity, East County Aid and Comfort, has also expanded from feeding people living outdoors to working toward getting some of them housed.
The group bought an “old manufactured home in a (mobile home) park,” Grover said, fixed it up, and was able to bring two unhoused older women into the home.
“They are paying us back with really low monthly payments,” she said, “We’re hoping to duplicate that a few times.”
The recent COVID-19 pandemic and forest fires have complicated her efforts. Since the pandemic began, Grover and her group scrapped Friday’s hot meal and just delivered food in bulk to the camps. They recently restarted bringing Friday’s hot meals to Lewis & Clark Park using strict safety precautions appropriate to the pandemic.
Friday “is my favorite day of the week. I just wake up cheerful,” she said.
East County Church of Christ houses the nonprofit organization, and Grover attends there sometimes. Five to 10 church members regularly help East County Aid and Comfort, and the congregation donates items that will be distributed to the unhoused. The group also gets food from Birch Community Services and other local churches, including St. Henry Catholic Church and individuals.
Grover, a devout Christian, has always been a helper.
“I’m motivated by my love of God and my devotion to him,” she said. From 2005-06, she ministered to women in the Multnomah County Justice Center. But, found the work less fulfilling than she expected. She said she felt separated from the women she was serving. She stopped visiting the incarcerated and found her niche with the unhoused.
Grover, 66, has lived in Gresham for 16 years, but “lived in the Northwest my whole life,” including time in Corbett. She has seven children, all now grown.
She’s been a realtor, arranging for more middle-class people to buy or sell homes, for about 25 years and works for Great Western Real Estate Company.
Wolfgang said Grover “works tirelessly and lovingly for those who otherwise would go hungry and remain hidden and marginalized.”