Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Opportunity Village turns 1 year old—and looks forward to the next!

Opportunity Village turned one year old at the end of August! The micro-housing community has provided a home to more than 60 people for various lengths of time since opening. Check out the video below to see what we have been up to the past year, and how it all came together:

On another note, we just received word that the Eugene city council voted 8 - 0 to extend our lease at 111 N. Garfield St. through June 2016

"The village opened last August. City officials had proposed extending the agreement until Oct. 1, 2015. However, the council decided to keep it in place longer, until June 1, 2016. The later date was suggested by south Eugene Councilor Betty Taylor, who didn’t want the village to be possibly disbanded just before winter. Councilors said they are impressed with how the village has operated since it opened, particularly that police only have been called there a handful of times. 'This model is working really well,' said south-central Councilor George Brown."

With Opportunity Village receiving more stability, we can continue to focus on moving forward with plans for our next village, Emerald Village.

Also, I wanted to share the narrative we submitted in our most recent Quarterly Report to the city:

"The completion of the village was celebrated at an open house on May 31 with approximately 200 people from the community stopping in for a tour or joining the opening ceremony with Mayor Piercy, OVE Board members and villagers.  While 30 units were originally planned for the village, the Board has opted to leave one space open for future use.  With the construction phase complete and the village near capacity, we can now show our cost for this innovative shelter.  The entire project was completed with just under $100,000 in cash donations and nearly an equal amount in materials and in-kind donations.  If the village were closed today, the cost of operating the village would amount to $12/bed night.  But if you amortize the construction cost over five years, assume the same operating costs as our last quarter for the remaining four years, the cost of operating the village comes to less than $3/bed night.  In other words, for less than $3/night, we are providing safe and decent shelter for 35 members of our community.  Subtract from that the $30/monthly utility fee which each villager pays, the actual cost paid by our donors comes to less than $2/night for each person.  This is an amazingly affordable model for providing basic shelter.  Not surprisingly, we continue to see strong interest around the country in similar models.  Work is about to begin in Austin, Texas, on a project with 200 tiny houses very similar to OVE.  Josh Alpert, with the City of Portland, recently announced plans to begin a micro-housing project on public property in Portland early next year.  Eugene can take pride in being a leader in this creative solution to a continual crisis in our nation.  The OVE Board is most appreciative of our working relationship with the city and various community partners to bring to fruition the vision we first articulated two years ago for a self-managed model community of tiny houses to provide shelter and support for people experiencing homelessness.  

The OVE Board, however, is not content to rest on these laurels.  We want to go a step further.  The problem of homelessness is complex but common to all without shelter is lack not just of income but of assets.  Many of the villagers have income but not enough to pay rent in current housing market and without other assets, their very modest income does not enable them to find any other housing.  Therefore, OVE is planning to build a second village, named Emerald Village, of 15 larger units which will be co-owned by the villagers, enabling them to build equity which will become an asset that they can use in the future to further improve their situation.  Similar to OVE, there will be a common bathhouse, kitchen and gathering space.  Unlike OVE, the units in Emerald Village will have electricity and heat.  Residents will be required to show ability to make payments of $200 to $250/month.  A portion of these payments will go into their equity accounts providing them with an asset they can use if and when they choose to move out of the village.  Rules for living in Emerald Village will be similar to that of Opportunity Village.  Residents who currently are at Opportunity Village and who have sufficient income will become the first residents of Emerald Village, thereby freeing up space for other at Opportunity Village.  Those chosen for Emerald Village will also participate in its construction, putting in an minimum of 50 hours towards completion of the project. OVE has already received $130,000 in gifts and pledges toward Emerald Village.  We will be seeking to raise another $200,000 to $250,000, depending on land costs.  We look forward to working with the city on this next ground breaking project to demonstrate yet another way we can work together to make life better, not only for many who currently live on the street, but to improve the well being of our entire community in the process."