COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER - December 15
10 THINGS WORTH HIGHLIGHTING THIS WEEK . . .
HUMANITY OF HOMELESSNESS
Megan and her 3 kids were guests at our CCS Micro-Shelter site until just recently. Megan always brought lots of smiles and joy while she was a guest with us.
Her and her kids are now living in a townhouse. And she is now a full-time employee with C@P!
We asked her to share her story. Here are some of the things she shared:
Megan has spent most of her life in and around the Salem area. She began using meth at the age of 15 as a way to cope with a difficult life at home.
”I depended on meth a lot growing up…I didn’t want nothing, but to just keep doing drugs.”
In August of 2019, “something finally clicked and I just decided that I didn’t want to use anymore. I still get cravings…but I’ve gained so much being sober. I just love the respect and perspective I’ve gained being sober. I don’t ever want to lose that.”
Megan’s three children have been an inspiration and motivation for her. “I think if I didn’t have my children, I would probably be dead or in prison. It took a long time to become a better mother for them.”
In the past few years, Megan and her kids struggled to find a safe and affordable place to live, bouncing around from hotels to relatives to friends’ homes. She was able to get on one of the lists for housing in Salem and was told it should just be a few months. In the meantime, she put her name on the waiting lists for all of Salem’s shelters, including C@P.
On the day when she had finally reached the end of her rope, they were living in a home that was not a safe place for her and the kids. “There's broken glass and garbage everywhere, it's like a hoarder's house. And it's like awful. I'm trying to clean, I start crying and I'm like, ‘God, I can't do this anymore.’ And at that very moment, Christopher called from Church At The Park and asked me if I was still looking for shelter.”
Her time on the housing waitlist ended up lasting a lot longer than expected, as is often the case. But that meant that we had a chance to build a deeper relationship with her.
We are so glad that C@P crossed paths with Megan. As is often the case, the ones who find themselves in the “helper” role are often the ones who end up on the receiving end. We were able to help Megan with temporary shelter, case management, a safe, sanitary, and supported place for her and her kids. But we’ve received so much more from being in relationship with them. While she was residing at CCS, she hosted a regular bingo night for the other guests. Since coming on staff, she is still finding creative ways to build relationships with guests and to make their stay with us a positive experience.
She’s mentioned wanting to become C@P’s official “Activities Director,” but lately she’s been thinking about returning to one of her first loves, cooking. “I always wanted to be a cook, but then I've been told all my life that I fuck everything up I. So I haven't really been passionate about things.” But since being sober and building a more stable life for herself and her kids, she is again exploring some of her passions. Her newest idea is to open a non-profit food truck that provides delicious meals for the hungry and provides job training and experience to people.
”I still hear the negative things that I've heard all my life. I still hear about it. Took me a lot to overcome the pain and suffering and stay positive. But I know that when I stay positive, it's contagious, it rubs off on people and it makes people smile, whether it's for the whole day or just for that moment. What if I could just put a smile on people’s face for a moment?”
Megan is an overcomer. We are grateful that she was willing to share a part of her story with us and even more grateful that we get to accompany her on her journey!
We are making great progress on the annual Room In The Inn project. Thank you to all of you who have contributed, donated, or signed up to volunteer.
An extra big shout-out to two organizations for their contributions. First, thanks to Dr. Ruth and the team at North River Road Dental for spearheading a sock drive at their office. Second, thanks to Sackcloth & Ashes for a huge donation of blankets!
ROOM IN THE INN OPPORTUNITIES
We still have some donations needed and opportunities for individuals, churches, or businesses to get involved in Room In The Inn. Here is a list of some of our remaining needs:
Men’s boots/shoes (size 9-14) Men’s gloves (M-XL) Men’s underwear (S-4XL) Women’s boots/shoes (size 6-11) Women’s sweatshirts (S-4XL) Women’s underwear (size 04-14) Kid’s gloves (S-L) Kid’s boots/shoes (size 4-12) Kid’s hats (S-XL) Kid’s Socks (S-L) Kid’s sweatshirts (XS-XL) Kid’s underwear (S-XL)
Below is a list of some of our remaining opportunities to serve:
KID’S ACTIVITY @ CCS Monday 12/19 4-5pm Tuesday 12/20 4-5pm Friday 12/23 4-5pm Sunday 12/25 4-5pm PRESENT WRAPPING @ CCS Thursday 12/22 Noon - 6:00PM CHRISTMAS MUSIC Friday 12/23 4-6pm (VOH) Saturday 12/24 4-6pm (VOH) Saturday 12/24 4-6pm (CCS) Sunday 12/25 4-6pm (VOH) Sunday 12/25 4-6pm (CCS)
2023 POINT-IN-TIME COUNT
From the Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance newsletter:
The Point-in-Time (PIT) Count is an annual, nationwide census that occurs during the last week of January. It helps communities gather information on the total number and key characteristics of individuals and households experiencing homelessness.
Over three days, January 24, 25, and 28, volunteers will go out to designated locations throughout the Marion-Polk region to conduct face-to-face interviews with thousands of people experiencing homelessness. There will also be PIT Count events at several locations for people to connect with local resources and services.
Volunteers — and more volunteers — are needed to help with PIT Count activities. Volunteer teams will cover all parts of the Marion-Polk region with the goal of interviewing every local unsheltered individual.
DOZENS OF OREGON SCHOOL DISTRICTS LIKELY UNDERCOUNTING HOMELESS STUDENTS
An article from Investigate West about unsheltered youth in Oregon’s school districts was recently featured in the Salem Reporter.
Here is an excerpt:
Madysun Wilson had already given up on graduating when the dean at her high school showed up during her shift at Papa Murphy’s in Coos Bay, Oregon.
She was technically homeless, crashing at a friend’s house after leaving her family home at 15. Casey McCord, the dean, had been calling her relatives for weeks letting them know Wilson was on the verge of dropping out of Marshfield High School.
The next day, Wilson agreed to come to her school, where McCord marched her to the back of the building to introduce her to Melinda Torres. Torres is the employee tasked with connecting with and supporting homeless students in the Coos Bay School District.
Torres urged Wilson not to drop out — offering that if she really didn’t want to finish her studies at Marshfield, the school could help pay for her General Equivalency Diploma (GED). They could also help her get clothes and food. It worked: Wilson passed her high-school-equivalency tests in December 2021 and now, at 17, is working toward an associate degree at Southwestern Oregon Community College. She dreams of working with homeless youth in the future.
“For the majority of my life, I didn’t think I was going to graduate high school,” Wilson said. But with help, she decided, “I wanted to (do) better.
A SPECIAL INVITATION FROM BUSH HOUSE MUSEUM
Sterling is C@P’s Resident Storyteller. He will be at the Bush House Museum for a night of spoken word, food, and drinks.
Saturday, December 17 from 6:30-8:30 p.m
Bush House Museum, 600 Mission ST. SE
The event is free, but space in the historic house museum is limited. Use the second button to RSVP as soon as possible.
THANKS TO SALEM PD
Big thanks to Salem PD’s Community Action Unit for donating two new basketball hoops and basketballs to our CCS Micro-Shelter site.
The Community Action Unit came to a summer BBQ event at the CCS site and noticed that the basketball hoop being used by the kids and youth was beyond repair.
Last week they showed up with two brand new hoops and some balls. With 50 kids on site, the donations will get put to good use.
We are grateful for the support of the Community Action Unit and Salem PD!
PARTNERING WITH OREGON DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES
One of our community partners, Tim Buckley, connected with Fariborz Pakseresht, Director of Oregon’s Department of Human Services (ODHS) for a profile/interview.
As health care consumers, we expect a rainbow of experts to noodle their way through a tangle of symptoms and lab results, guiding us towards a satisfactory health outcome. You wouldn’t engage a family nurse practitioner to perform a colonoscopy, for example, nor an ophthalmologist for fallen arches.
“In terms of meeting our basic societal needs, like shelter, safety, income, and education, we rely on a similar process.” said Fariborz. As individuals, we engage with various professionals to help us meet our basic needs, and the better we manage that juggling act, the greater likelihood that we’ll thrive: physically, mentally, socially and financially.
C@P uses the same strategy when it comes to help those whose “social determinants of health and success” are few and faltering. We “triage” the unmet needs of unsheltered families and individuals, and rely on a network of other organizations, including Oregon’s ODHS, to remedy dire circumstances.
As social issues pile up, it’s become clear to Pakseresht and others that collaborative partnerships are necessary, even crucial to our success. “My thinking is that government can be most helpful as a funding source, but that local community partner agencies and organizations are the best suited to put that funding to work in the most effective way. No two communities are the same, so we’re increasingly looking to partner with those living in the midst of the need, to identify the best strategies to help meet those needs.”
In Salem and Keizer, the partnership between ODHS and C@P is in its infancy. The partnership focuses on supporting children, parents, youth and adults to assist them on a path to success. Families in poverty, families of color, and people with disabilities often experience worse outcomes – whether in health, education, housing, or economic stability - due to barriers and gaps in the system, and some end up with their children removed due to safety concerns.
Building relationships and trust with the community is vital to the success of this partnership. ODHS family coaches, eligibility workers, and Child Welfare staff meet regularly with individuals and families onsite at C@P, explore alternative ways to support families, wrap services around them to meet their specific needs, and help keep children safely with their parents whenever possible.
Pakseresht said that ODHS is exploring opportunities to partner with communities and community-based organizations that can provide “wrap-around services” designed around a community’s ability to address all the social determinants in one comprehensive program. Here’s a mission statement from the ODHS website, where an overview of the Building Well-Being Initiative is described.
The Building Well-Being Initiative seeks to rally ODHS, its programs, partners, Tribes, and community to work together to identify and close the gaps between services and supports and invest in community and upstream solutions, so that all who live in Oregon, regardless of race, identity, age, disability, or place, have the needed supports to achieve whole well-being for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
The first pilot to roll out is centered in Medford but involving the entire Rogue Valley. Below is a link to the program.
While Rogue Way Home’s focus and population served is a bit different than C@P’s, Pakseresht noted that C@P is largely employing the same mindset and strategies to achieve its mission. He invited us to look at ways in which ODHS can partner in ways that suit our needs in new, socially significant ways.
HAVE YOU TAKEN A TOUR?
Taking a tour of our CCS family site is a great way to see what C@P is all about. It is a chance to connect with some of our leaders and to meet some other staff, and maybe even some guests. Tours happen every Thursday at 1:30PM. Email Krystal if you or your group is interested in taking a tour.
This week’s lectionary takes us deeper into the season of Advent. It is the annunciation to Joseph.
For Joseph, the angel did not bring news that he probably wanted to hear. That is often the case for us, too. When God invites us into something, there are plans that are pushed aside, expectations that are extinguished, desires that are delayed. Joseph likely wanted God to save and deliver him and his fellow Jews from the Roman Empire. But wasn’t there a way for God to do that without messing with his upcoming marriage, or his respect and honor in the community?
Theologian Kelly Nikondeha writes in her book, The First Advent in Palestine, that “grief work is the seedbed for Advent hope. We cannot grasp the fullness of [advent] without first attending to the brokenness of our world.”
Joseph, the just man, decides that he will not compound Mary’s trouble with a messy divorce, even though a divorce would be his only way to save his honor and to recover financial costs.
A man in Joseph’s position could ask for the money that would have been owed him has he gone through with the marriage. But Mary was already on the verge of public disgrace. And Joseph still cared for her.
By choosing to end their relationship quietly rather than through a public divorce hearing, Joseph was choosing to forgo clearing his name and to instead endure social scorn.
He seemed willing to accept a measure of shared shame to shield Mary from society’s worst.
Joseph willingly chose to enter into Mary’s disgrace.
For both Joseph and Mary, following Christ was costly from the get go.
The story of Mary and Joseph reminds us that Advent might actually make life harder. Yet we know what Joseph and Mary knew: that God is with us. Joseph and Mary held fast to the promise of God-with-us.
Who are the disgraced, the shamed, and the scorned in our world that need someone to walk alongside of them, reminding them of the promise of Advent, that God is with us?
Thanks for reading.
In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Rob Delaney says this whole experience [of losing a child] has forced him to become more comfortable with mystery. “You see deeper,” he said, “you see through the veil, things that are much bigger and more powerful than what’s happening in the day to day. You put your hand on the pulse of something much more majestic … and terrifying … and beautiful.”
Colbert, a Christian, then asks, “What is that thing, if I may ask?”
Sheepishly, Rob answers “I mean it might be love. The big problem for me is that my faith organ or whatever has actually been growing in the years after Henry’s death.”