Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jean Stacey Explains OVE


Jean is the interim chair of OVE, now organizing as a nonprofit to set up this homeless Village, hopefully in October, 2012. Here she talks to a crowd of about 70 people at a public meeting on OVE at Cesar Chavez school on July 24, 2012. The site the OVE steering committee hopes to use for the Village is on 3 acres of vacant land, owned by the city, between 14th & 13th, north of the school.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Letters of Support


7-9-2012

Hello to the Mayor & City Council of Eugene,

I applaud your active support for Opportunity Village, an idea that will certainly prove to be a timely and effective compliment to all other efforts to address and mitigate the impacts that homelessness has upon all segments of our society. As a still-active, original supporter of the Dignity Village Project in Portland, I’m writing to state my enthusiastic support for Opportunity Village in Eugene. As a supporter, coordinator, facilitator and leader, my involvement in the development Dignity Village, and now several other such projects, has been as a co-director of both The City Repair Project 501(c)3 and also of my own firm, Communitecture, Inc., Architecture & Planning.

The Opportunity Village model will work to effectively address homelessness by directly and constructively engaging people to convert their own problems into solutions. Among the many benefits that we may anticipate emerging from Opportunity Village, we can expect the following:

Residents of Opportunity Village will develop a variety of life skills related to participation, communication, decision-making, accountability, and even leadership.

Residents of the village, women in particular, will be safer living with peers in a place where they have relationships with others, than they are presently on the streets.
  
The model will be multiple times more cost-effective than conventional tax-supported shelters, by a factor of perhaps 10 to 1, while also enabling couples to stay together, possessions to be retained rather than lost, and pets kept rather than abandoned.

The village will also be a place that will enable greater stability as residents will be better able to look for jobs, training, and educational opportunities while they have a transitional place to live.

There is much more to say about the potential benefits of this project. For now, I will say that I am offering to help by mentoring the coordinators through meetings, design support, on-site dialogues, and ongoing communications. The proposed site at Chambers and 13th appears to be an optimal location, with good relationship to a number of considerations. At this point there is plenty of time to resolve the design before the onset of autumn and cold weather. I am happy to help with this and other processes.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Mark Lakeman, 
Principal & Design Lead 
Communitecture, Inc.
1639 SE 12th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97214
t - 503.230.1293                                                                           
                                                                        
Co-Founder
Portland City Repair Project
c - 503.381.5885


7-10-2012

I understand the city council is considering the viability of the Opportunity Village project at the 13th and Chambers site. I know I speak for a groundswell of sentiment when I observe that such an initiative is very timely and so very needed. There comes a point where the fundamental responsibility that an effort such as this both addresses and presents, is indeed worthy of being assumed by a community, and I have strong confidence that together, we possess the vision, impetus, means and patience to what amounts to, yes, a vexing but necessary challenge.

I've long played a role in supporting homesteaders and communities seeking to integrate food systems directly into the living infrastructure of their homes. As well as hands-on work 'where the rubber hits the road' I play a primary role in the stewardship of the Lane County Propagation Fair, an annual event which freely distributes the most ecologically-resilient fruit and vegetable germplasm in our bioregion to about 1,000 attendees. I have ready access and experience, in other words, to integrate highly-productive food systems into the Chambers site - which, in ecological terms, lends itself especially well to such an approach - and I am very supportive of this project.

Sincerely,

Nick Routledge
Lane County Propagation Fair


7-12-2012

Dear Mayor and City Council,

I am interested in, and supportive of the goals of Opportunity Village. I have this type of model work well in Portland, in Dignity Village. There are some people who can become good community citizens and have safe places to sleep within the Opportunity Village model, who otherwise have trouble participating in the broader real estate rental or ownership model. Eugene could lead the way by being supportive of this project. I will be willing to help volunteer some time to this project, if the city supports it. Please let me know if you need anything else from me to show support.

Thank you,
Marc Tobin, 

Degree of Master of Community and Regional Planning from the UO
Founding director at Rising Vision Planning, Design, and Facilitation
marc@risingvisionllc.com


7-17-2012


Social Justice Committee
Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene
1685 West 13th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97402

Dear Mayor Piercy, Eugene City Councilors and Staff,

At its monthly meeting on June 4, 2012, the Social Justice Committee (SJUUCE) of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene (UUCE) unanimously endorsed Opportunity Village. SJUUCE strongly supports the work of the Task Force on Homelessness created by Mayor Piercy, in particular the recommendation that a site be made available as a place for homeless people "to be".

The UUCE Board of Trustees also heard a presentation on Opportunity Village at its June 14, 2012 meeting and was generally supportive of the project as well.  More specifically, several Board members mentioned that this could be a significant social justice opportunity for UUCE to be involved with, particularly in light of its possible location right across the street from our new building at 13th and Chambers.  SJUUCE believes that the former site of the Army Center would be an ideal location for the Village.

We join with other faith and community groups to support Opportunity Village as well as implementation of the other Task Force recommendations.  The vision of the Village as "an alternative living site for those who are experiencing homelessness and the community members who have joined with them" closely dovetails with the 1st Unitarian Universalist principle, which is "the inherent worth and dignity of every person."  Our congregation covenants to affirm and promote this critical principle as well as "the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all."  We believe there is now a window of "Opportunity" to provide homeless Eugene-Springfield residents their basic right to shelter in a truly compassionate and sustainable way.  We hope you will join us in supporting the opening of Opportunity Village this fall. 

Sincerely,

Jeff Jackson
SJUUCE Chair

Guest Viewpoint in the Register Guard


Finding that first home for the homeless


Eugene has accomplished much to address homelessness. Our level of services, our innovation and our volunteerism are well recognized.
Even so, we need to respond to the growing needs of the homeless with new and additional answers.
We need to do so because many remain unhoused and are beyond the capacity of our current services. We need to do so because our businesses, law enforcement agencies, health care system and neighborhood parks are being affected.
Our economic woes call for new resourcefulness and ingenuity. They demand that we try something new to reduce costs, respond to needs and put ourselves in the best position possible to deal with this economy. There is a need for a pragmatism that aids the homeless and protects the livability of our community.
It is the kind of hard challenge a community such as Eugene has the intellectual capital to meet. The Eugene City Council will be addressing a new project at its work session at noon Wednesday.
Opportunity Village Eugene is Eugene’s newest, cutting-edge tool for carving a new piece in the local housing puzzle that is both pragmatic and compassionate. Increased houselessness and decreased taxes have left Eugene and the rest of the country in a quagmire that demands out-of-the-box thinking.
We can no longer suggest that the homeless “get a job”; there are not enough jobs to get. We can no longer tell them to “go away,” for there is no legal place for them to go, especially to sleep legally.
Despite our proud history, we do not have enough housing to meet the increased need. That has caused problems both for those who are houseless and for everyone else.
Police, courts and jails are jammed with those who commit victimless crimes, including the crime of sleeping. Emergency rooms, hospitals and psychiatric wards are overrun with people whose illnesses are caused by living in the elements and by denial of early stage health care.
We are all coming to terms with the fact that homelessness is a very expensive business, and that in order for the homeless to “go away,” they must have some place to go.
Opportunity Village will begin with one democratically organized “neighborhood” of 30 homeless residents, plus a few mentors who will live with them on-site. There will be around-the-clock security within the village and at the single entry gate. There will be absolutely zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol and violence.
Members of the permaculture and alternative housing communities have been working on plans for the village to grow its own organic food, provide walkways, handle drainage issues and build small-footprint shelters that eventually can become part of the Eugene’s already sanctioned backyard camping program.
Business leaders will help residents develop micro-businesses to provide some income. An important aspect of Opportunity Village is the building of community and the setting of realistic expectations for a lifestyle the residents can accomplish and sustain as they make a transition out of the village.
Opportunity Village Eugene is now forming a 501(c)(3) organization in response to the recommendation of the Opportunity Eugene Task Force on Homelessness to provide a place “to be,” a 24/7 community that provides a legal place to sleep and live. It will not be a depressing blemish, nor will it be dependent on handouts and tax dollars. To get started, it needs land from the city and donations from the community.
But by growing its own food, creating its own cottage industries, building and living in its own micro-housing and moderating its own safety and security, it will become self-managed and self-sufficient under the oversight of the new 501(c)(3). As a socially and ecologically sustainable community, it will be a source of pride to any neighborhood by offering safe housing to economic refugees, many of whom have worked steadily for the last 20 years but suddenly are unemployed or bankrupt due to health bills.
Opportunity Village will give people a chance to take responsibility once again for their own lives and to make the transition from the village back into the larger community with the self-confidence and tools necessary to succeed. Opportunity Village is a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” “teach a man to fish” kind of place that will help those who are determined to help themselves. It will, through helping those most at risk, help conserve our tax resources and build a stronger, healthier community for us all.
Opportunity Village currently is working with churches, schools, neighborhood associations and neighbors to find our first home. It truly takes a village to build a village. The first implementation of Opportunity Village will lead other neighborhoods to want the same resource. Opportunity Village is a “yes in my backyard” model for the future.
Jean Stacey is interim chairwoman of the steering committee for Opportunity Village Eugene (op.village@gmail.com).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

OVE and City Repair


Strong emphasis will be placed on connecting the Village to its surroundings.  It is important to the success of the Village that it be a good neighbor to those who live and work nearby.  Although the Village will be fundamentally different in appearance and organization from other types of housing in Eugene, we believe that it will be recognized as a positive addition to the neighborhood.
One way this will be achieved is through making OVE a City Repair project.  City Repair is an organization of citizen activists who educate and inspire people to build a more community-oriented and ecologically sustainable society.  It rests on the notion that if you actively involve people throughout a community in the planning and design of their spaces, it will result in much more vibrant places that carry broad support.

City Repair has been actively involved in community projects in Portland where their volunteers help navigate the process, raise funds, and meet city requirements.  City Repair has also been involved in sustaining the aesthetic appeal of Dignity Village.  Volunteers work with villagers to paint lively murals on their homes and build raised garden beds that bring a healing, natural element to the village. Applying this community place-making model to OVE will make it a place of pride for the city of Eugene.  The Village will provide an effective avenue for citizens to utilize their unique skill in order to create a more equitable society.



This is no small project, and where the energy of City Repair becomes a driving force. The proposed Chambers/13th Street site is approximately three acres in area, making for a long perimeter.  Rather than attempting to construct a uniform border around the site, which could be oppressive and infeasible in terms of available material, we plan to break it up into separate projects that would directly involve villagers and surrounding neighbors.

We have begun to develop a list of "Village Supporters" to help facilitate these types of projects, and have already witnessed a serious interest in OVE.  We are asking these intrigued citizens what kind of skills, materials, and time they have to contribute and documenting the responses.  One notable supporter relevant to this topic is Mark Lakeman, co-founder of City Repair and an influential figure behind the vision for Dignity Village, along with others from these organizations as well.  While we recognize that this is no small task, it is an innovative project that is invigorating citizens around Eugene.  In the words of architect Daniel Burnham, "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized".