MEDFORD, Ore. — Though she was on the streets for many years, Karen Lynncantu says at one point, she lived in the world of "Muggles," a Harry Potter reference she uses to define a productive society.
"I was part of the world of the good folk, the lower middle class," she said during an interview in Hawthorne Park on Tuesday. " I ended up marrying a pastor's son at a Victory Outreach in texas and I learned to play the piano. I used to play the piano for every service."
She said addiction took her from that world and placed her back on the streets. Now she is in recovery and credits Medford's Livability Team, a body of the Medford Police Department tasked with connecting homeless individuals with resources.
She said drugs have always been a part of her life. She grew up in the foster care system in Texas and ran away from home at a young age.
She said she fell off the wagon after her marriage ended in divorce.
"I went from being overweight married to a pastor's son to losing weight on meth and being pretty girl rock to being pushcart homeless with matted hair and stinking the high heaven," she said. "My whole world came out from underneath my feet. I didn't know how to get out of it if my life depended on it."
She said while on the street things went from bad to worse after she went through a traumatic event that left her scarred and traumatized.
"I'm not proud of a lot of things I've done but at some point, something happened to me, there was a lot of GHB going around, there were a lot of drugs going around and I couldn't remember it and I was hanging out with all the sorts of wrong people," she said.
She said the abuse she experienced sent her down a spiral.
"I lost my mind, I lost it! Just shattered," she said. "I was screaming at the world screaming at everything singing at the top of my lungs just trying to drown out things that I heard that I couldn't explain."
She said she came to the Rogue Valley after she was kidnapped by a man she met.
"He was going to take me to a Casino and he ended up getting further and further away and I kept on telling him to go back," she said. " I didn't know where he was taking me and I ended up here in Oregon he dropped me off in Grants Pass."
She said she was first connected to Rogue Retreat through a warming shelter that it was running there at the time. From there she was directed to the Kelly Shelter in Medford but says she was kicked out for using drugs.
"I couldn't make people understand that I wasn't okay...I just wasn't okay," she said noting that during that time she often spent time on the Greenway.
"The cops were called on me constantly, the livability team," she said but noted that she never felt they were hostile towards her.
"It was a journey really I was shamed a lot, a lot of things happened but the one thing I remember was the cops were always trying to encourage me they didn't look down on me like I was disgusting," she said.
She said the support they showed her and continue to show her is one of the things that helped her get off the streets.
"Just recently I took some pictures with them (livability team officers) and it humbled me it's like these are the very same cops that you know had to take me away you know because people didn't want me around," she said. "You know these are the very same cops that could have been like 'eww don't touch me like I know what she smelled like' you know? And they've spoken to my life they took pictures with me, they are proud of me."
She said she understands that not everyone struggling with addiction is ready for help but says she wants them to know that the Livability Team is there to help.
Particularly with the team now engaged in cleanup of homeless camps on the Bear Creek Greenway, she said the situation is tense but she feels that there needs to be "more understanding" for the work the team does.
"I get really defensive because these are the cops that pulled me up and peeled me off the sidewalk," she said. "We know what's right and what is not right and blaming it all on the police is not the answer it wasn't for me and it's not for anybody."