PORTLAND, OREGON (KOIN) — A property investor who intended on kicking a homeless man off his newly purchased property had a change of heart and, instead, decided to give the man a job.
“I just saw him as a person I think who really wanted help,” Chris Crever said. “It makes me feel good, but it’s not about me. It’s about providing an opportunity for James.”
James Eppler, 28, grew up in Eugene. He’s been homeless since he was 16, when a family situation forced him out of the house.
Up until recently, he slept on the porch of a home at SW Madison Street and SW 19th Avenue that now belongs to Crever. He and a friend often huddled together at night, trying to shield themselves from the relentless rain.
Crever starting cleaning the place up once he bought the property.
“In the back of the house there was sleeping bags, wet blankets, things like that,” he said.
He threw away the bedding, and when Eppler and his friend discovered what had happened they weren’t sure what to do next. Crever found them as they worked to devise a plan, and told them they would have to leave his property.
“I was sad, but what else could you do?” Eppler said.
What he did next surprised the property investor.
“He understood, wasn’t bitter about it and thanked me as I walked away,” Crever recalled. “Before I got in my car, I’m thinking, ‘What did he thank me for? I just asked him to leave what he would consider his home.’”
Eppler said Crever asked him to leave respectfully, and he was thankful to have been treated like a human being.
That’s when Crever decided to go back.
“I said, ‘You meet me here Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. and help me clean up the property,’” he said.
It was a dream come true for Eppler.
Even though he was supposed to be in 8:30 a.m., he showed up at 7:45 a.m.
“He seems to want it, he seems to have the desire,” Crever said.
Eppler was still sleeping under a bridge at the time. He showed up to work soaked from the rain when Crever decided to give him a temporary room inside the home.
The 28-year-old was grateful to have a place to clean up. He said having a beard made him feel homeless.
“It’s humiliating not being able to shower,” he said. “We always hope for something, you know, a little help, not necessarily money.”
Eppler said he’s looking forward to having a place to go and a reason to wake up everyday.
Now, Crever is challenging others to step in and help find Eppler permanent work and affordable housing. He has experience working as a cook and, now, in maintenance.
“I really want a full-time job,” he said.
Crever said he thinks a job in the service sector would be a great fit for Eppler, but in order to get there, he’s going to need a roof over his head.
The property investor hopes his story will inspire others to reach out and lend a hand to those in need.
“To have this around Christmas time… I was raised with Christmas every year, it was a huge thing,” Eppler said. “It’s almost like God smiling down.”