Ivory Irene McCuen died Jan. 24 on the streets of Eugene. She was 30.
She was found outdoors in a parking lot near West 17th Avenue and Chambers Street in a severely hypothermic state and died en route to the hospital.
McCuen was raised in Crane, a small town in eastern Oregon’s Harney County, alongside her older sister, Breezy Smith. She loved art and music and could often be heard singing around the house, her family says. McCuen was known for her loving and accepting nature, and often told those around her how “wonderful and beautiful” they were.
She attended Oregon City High School for a period of time before later obtaining her GED. In recent years, she attended Lane Community College in hopes of becoming a counselor.
McCuen battled mental health problems from a young age. Her sister recalls her complaining of “voices in her head” as a child, later discovered to be the result of schizoaffective disorder. She became homeless two years ago, after living with a boyfriend in Eugene and struggling to hold down a job or housing due to her mental health issues.
McCuen checked herself into the hospital on Jan. 10, seeking help for hallucinations. Her sister, Smith, laments that she was not contacted.
“She was worth more,” Smith says. “When we see people in the street, you have to know they are human beings, with people who love them.”
While McCuen’s family tried to assist her, often leaving groceries for pick up at local stores, it was difficult to contact her during periods of psychosis. When McCuen last spoke to her family, in early January, she seemed hopeful and open to change.
McCuen’s message to the world could be described as “You are worth it,” her sister says. She hoped to help others overcome their demons and find beauty in life.
McCuen is survived by her 9- and 11-year-old sons, Mykelti and Kilian, described as the lights of her life; her older sister, Breezy Smith; and her mother and stepfather, Cathy and Charles Youngblood.
A celebration of life will be held in Harney County at 1 pm March 13, her 31st birthday, at Burns Christian Church, 125 South Buena Vista Avenue, Burns. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to White Bird’s crisis team, CAHOOTS.
Ivory McCuen is the second person known to have died while homeless in Lane County in 2021. Eugene Weekly seeks to run obituaries for every homeless person we learn of who dies here this year. We are still at work on an obituary for Hazel Dai, who died in Eugene Jan. 8. Please contact Editor@EugeneWeekly.com if you are aware of an unhoused person who has passed. We hope there are no more such stories to do.