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“Santa’s Mixed Bag” by Sterling Cunio

In a Christmas Eve winter storm covering Salem in ice and freezing temperatures, I slid across the hockey rink parking lot at Village of Hope in a Santa Clause outfit trying to avoid face plants. Assuring myself that the real Santa would never take off a snow day, I reach the gate to deliver home baked cookies to the residents at the micro-shelter community operated by Church at the Park for our city’s homeless population. There are forty micro-shelters at VOH, each shared by two people who would otherwise be on the streets this Christmas. Entering into the common area, I see a group of people huddled around the heater having coffee while heavily engaged in conversation and, in that moment, I’m reminded one of the best things found at VOH is the sense of community created among and for our guests. I’m warmed on this cold day by the thought of April, James, Dawn, Trenton, Heather, and others having a shelter in the storm and companionship on Christmas with gifts generously donated from around the city. For over a month, C@P has been collecting everything from shoes and socks, sweaters, stockings stuffed with treats, and perhaps most importantly toys for the kids housed at the children and family micro-shelter site located at Catholic Community Services where earlier this morning I dawned the Santa outfit and visited the Christmas party to spread holiday cheer. Along with three trailers full of gifts, games of musical chairs, chase with Santa, food and more, there was an abundance of heartfelt gratitude expressed by parents of the kids running around with gleeful squeals and debates about whether or not I was the real Santa. After leaving the kids’ Christmas party and on my drive to VOH, my own holiday joy was at an all-time high, whereas the context in which my Santa-ing occurred is one of difficulty and crisis, the love and empathy shared that day as part of C@P’s efforts to celebrate with the most vulnerable reminded me that even in the darkest of moments we can still be lights. An after-effect of an afternoon filled with the sounds of children’s Christmas laughter reinforced an optimism that kindness can make a difference everywhere. It was in an altruistic euphoria experienced from serving others, that I slipped and slid into VOH and met the people I knew sitting around the heater drinking their coffee. “Ho, ho, ho---merry Christmas” I shout while approaching the group. Fully expecting the witty and affectionate banter that’s become a part of my rapport with the guests, but instead, I’m met with somber looks instantly signaling something is wrong. “What’s going on?” I ask aloud Penny, a guest I know mostly for her humor and perceptiveness says, “Our friend died.” Her name was Kristine and two days prior she came to Village of Hope in a medical condition that we are unable to provide the level of care she needed. We arranged for EMS to come out for her, while lining up alternative placement in a shelter that could tend to her needs but could not allow her husband or their dog. Choosing not to split up, they elected to camp on the streets where Kristine was found dead on Christmas Eve. The news spread throughout the site and in the group’s grief I grieved with them while struggling to tap back into that sense of optimism that engulfed me merely hours earlier. How, I inwardly wondered, could it be that even after people from all across the city pulled together to provide a Christmas to those most in need could poor people be freezing in our streets? As the guest continued to talk and share their stories of the experience, I began realizing that even in this tragedy the group had a place to grieve and people to do it with, that Kristine’s life did not go unnoticed and whereas it is beyond our current capacity to prevent all the woes of poverty, we are changing the lives of many through creating places of care and community. Realizing with more capacity we can do more, I promised the guest to talk about their friend when sharing stories of our work and left that night determined to work a little harder, to give a little more of myself to the vision of a city of peace where none go without shelter. Whereas one could easily delve into critiques of social systems and inequalities in search of answers or places to lay blame, I left with a heart mixed with sorrow for Kristine and joy for the kids and found a degree of comfort in reminding myself of all we do to bring about greater equality and empathy to our city. Although our mission to feed, shelter and care for our houseless neighbors is still not complete, we have made significant strides and are gaining momentum as the housed residents of our city become more invested in helping those most in need. Frequently in this line of work we hear that we can’t save everybody, yet, we at C@P reject that premise and actively seek to make room for everybody at the table and believe we can. Perhaps we can do it without a Santa, but we certainly can’t do it without the care of our communities and the continued support of so many already invested in the vision. This story of cheer spread through donations, volunteers and generous giving contrasted by the loss of Kristine holds the recognition of continued need as we enter into the new year while simultaneously highlighting the power of community to make a difference, in hopes more will join us in recognizing and uplifting the humanity of the homeless.




C@P has a year end goal to match the $48,000 that we have received thus far in 2022 for our Benevolence Fund. This fund helps us break down barriers for our guests who need housing and stabilization by providing assistance through rent deposits, sleeping bags, gas cards for guests to attend appointments, phone chargers, and car repairs.

We have two more days to reach our $48,000 goal. Use the button below to donate.




As of November 30th, C@P has served a total of 625 people at our two micro-shelter sites, including 166 children.

Of those 625 - 474 have exited our programs, 305 of those to positive destinations.

65% of the people who have exited in 2022 have gone on to positive destinations

We are both encouraged by those numbers and challenged to figure out how we can improve the services that we provide so that even more people are moving on to positive destinations.




We are grateful to be a part of a community that cares and gives. We wanted to dedicate this space to acknowledging some organizations and foundations that have chosen to partner with us. Thank you to the following groups for helping us to serve more people and to do so more effectively in 2022:

SPIRIT MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY FUND, for supporting our 2023 Commercial Kitchen Project. CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, for the sponsorship of our shower trailer at VOH. BROTHERHOOD MUTUAL, for the “Kingdom Advancing” grant for bathrooms and showers at the future young adult micro-shelter site. WILLAMETTE HEALTH COUNCIL, for their continued support of our health and housing integration and staff development efforts. HABITAT FOR HOPE VILLAGES, for supporting a laundry and shower trailer. SALEM HEALTH, for supporting our first community health worker. OREGON COMMUNITY FOUNDATION, for supporting the development and expansion of our trauma-informed and non-violent Safety Team. MID-WILLAMETTE VALLEY HOMELESS ALLIANCE AND YOUTH HOMELESS , for partnering with us on serving young adults through the Youth Homeless Demonstration Program. CITY OF SALEM, MARION COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, COVANTA, AND WILLAMETTE VALLEY HAULERS, for sponsoring a laundry trailer. UNITED WAY MID-WILLAMETTE VALLEY, GOOD360, for supporting our guests with monthly donations. NORTHWEST HUB, for building a micro-shelter to be used by medical providers on site, and for providing bike repair services to our guests. MARION COUNTY DOG SHELTER, WILLAMETTE VALLEY HUMANE SOCIETY, BORN AGAIN PIT BULL RESCUE, PETSMART, AND LOCAL VETERINARIANS, for providing support and care to the pets of our guests. This list is just some of the groups and organizations that have supported us in 2022. To all of the individual givers, donors, volunteers, and advocates who have supported us this year, thank you!




2022 December C@P Ordination

In 2022, 3 members of our community were ordained!

At C@P, to be ordained means that a person recognizes a call in their life to be an urban peacemaker and to develop other incarnational leaders and that the C@P community sees and affirms those things in them.

3 people were ordained on Sunday, December 11th: Desiree Rudder, Kelly Teves, and Sterling Cunio.

Congratulations to each of them. May you each be bringers of peace to our community!

As part of the ordination process, each of them was asked to write a prayer. You can read their prayers by clicking below.




Work is underway to develop our property at 2410 Turner Rd SE into a micro-shelter community for young adults. We will have 20 shelters on site, along with bathrooms, showers, and a laundry trailer.

The site will be for unsheltered young adults, ages 18-24. Our outreach team is already working, connecting with, and building relationships with young adults who are in need of shelter.

If everything goes according to plan with the development process, we hope to have the site up and running in February.




The property at 2410 Turner RD SE will also be home to a new workforce development program. Thanks to the support of the Spirit Mountain Community Fund and others, we have raised a portion of the amount that we will need for this project.

Along with providing job training opportunities in a commercial kitchen setting, the project will allow us to provide the meals at all of our micro-shelter locations.




Shower Trailer at the Portland Road Day Center
Shower Trailer at the Portland Road Day Center

The Safe Parking Network now has a Day Center to help our guests receive the help and support they need to find long term housing.

The old DMV at 2640 Portland Rd NE is now the place Safe Parkers can receive showers, mail, food, and case management support.




  • TAKE A TOUR: 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.

  • HOST A PRESENTATION: How can we help you continue and deepen your connection with our unsheltered neighbors in partnership with Church at the Park? A presentation or discussion with DJ, John, Sterling or another member of the pastoral team? More information on volunteer options for individuals or groups to provide: meals, clothing donations or showers? More information on hosting Safe Parking? More information on Micro Shelters?




This week’s lectionary reading highlights one of the hardest parts of the Christmas story: the “massacre of the innocents.” John Marshall wrote a reflection about this passage in our weekly Lectionary email that is worth re-sharing.

Jesus’ entrance into the world occasions the death of hundreds of infants. (Some Savior!). And it’s really easy for me to read this story and immediately scapegoat Herod, desiring a return volley of violence and punishment for his massacre.

Maybe this is why Matthew includes the prophecy of Rachel in the middle of the story. She’s a mom who refuses the comfort of the world’s justice, because it isn’t real justice: violent punishment on top of violent punishment is just the same sickness. Her grief compels her to cry for something real and lasting and out of this world. A Divine justice that prevents innocent deaths in the first place. A justice for which the cycle violence is short-circuited.

Rachel is God-as-mother. She is the antithesis of Herod 2000+ years ago. And the Herod that I continue to reanimate in my own violent visions of justice today. She cries for each of our friends whose deaths happen far too early than they were supposed to. For each one among us whose humanity is reduced and dignity is denied by systems of inequality.

Rachel knows there’s something better than this. May hers be the hope we choose to reanimate.


Thanks for reading.

"There is no Mary problem in 'It's a Wonderful Life.'"

”For all the extraordinary, irreplaceable good George has done for others, what makes his life finally wonderful—awe inspiring, mysterious—is what has been done for him.”



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