COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER - February 26
10 THINGS WORTH HIGHLIGHTING THIS WEEK . . .
HUMANITY OF HOMELESSNESS
This is Tony.
Kim gets her love of cooking from her grandma, who’s kitchen she would sit in as a little kid sneaking fresh made tortillas. Like us all, Kim has dreams and her dream is to open a café that would include tortillas, lasagna, and a host of other treats. “I love feeding people” says Kim the 47-year-old mother of 6. Originally from California, she moved up here to be closer to her mom and then in 1995, six months after her daughter’s death, her son was declared brain dead. Unable to emotionally stay in the home with her children’s absence, she picked up and left before spiraling down a long path of homelessness, wrestling personal demons and piecing herself back together. To get off the streets she moved in with her sister. Before she could get on the lease, her sister passed leading to another stint of sleeping in the streets. And while Kim has endured difficulties that would crumble many, she identifies herself as a survivor—of abuse, struggle, stigma and personal demons—who still dreams of happiness. This month, she is taking another step towards that dream. After coming to C@P in the summer 2022, Kim is moving into her own apartment! She is most excited to cook and use a bathroom, not a port-a-potty. During her stay with us at VOH, she says she met some great people and appreciated being able to lock her door. The thing she wishes for Salem to know is that “just because we’re homeless doesn’t mean we’re evil, bad, drug addicts or crazy. At VOH, residents and staff alike have all enjoyed Kim’s ever pleasant and awe inspiring personality.
We celebrate her and her future.
LIVED EXPERIENCE - An article from community partner, Tim Buckley
Lived experience is a resume of sorts. But, instead of it being just about the glorious and award-winning parts of our life, lived experience includes the bumps and bad breaks, the suffering and the trauma we carry. People living without consistent, reliable, and safe housing have a lived experience that makes them ideal candidates for helping others with the same issues, whether it is financial, medical or other things. For that reason, C@P has hired dozens of people whose life experience includes living unsheltered. Of course, they have other skills and aptitudes. But that one thing in common allows them to have empathy with others. It allows them to establish quick rapport with new guests, a bond that becomes a foundation for understanding the person’s needs and helping them attain their goals. But, here’s the thing: those with lived experience as unsheltered citizens often carry some residue of trauma. “So isn’t it risky,” you might ask, “to employ those with past trauma to work alongside others having a similar exposure to violence, abuse, isolation, grief, addiction, illness and poverty? Might that not be an invitation for added trauma?”
The short answer is yes, there is risk. C@P is aware that constant exposure to the trauma of others can create secondary trauma, a boomerang effect, particularly to those who have a lived experience in those same conditions.
So, C@P is organized around staff wellness and support. The organization has committed to robust and ongoing training and support for staff members. “We are helping our employees build resilience – reducing the effects of their own traumatic pasts while avoiding being retraumatized in the course of helping others,” said Sean Robertson, a resident psychologist, pastor, and Chief Clinical Officer for C@P.
As part of orientation, all C@P employees receive Outward Mindset training Outward Mindset helps people witness their current frame of mind. Instead of focusing on what’s best for me (inward), they are led to reframe in terms of what’s best for all of us (community). C@P’s jobs in micro-shelter communities require an outward mindset. And yet, the mindset also applies to being supportive of other staff members. C@P schedules times in which staff can relax together away from work: parties, short outings, and having meals together, for example.
Nonviolent Communication, or NVC, is another skill being taught to employees. While all new hires get a grounding in NVC, about one-third of the staff are in a “community of practice” that meets during business hours four times a month for a total of eight hours. Here they build community by empathizing with the stresses and joys others express. Here, they also role play stressful work situations, using NVC skills. Practice, even if it isn’t perfect, brings more confidence and resiliency. What have been contentious events in the past can now be seen as potentially peaceful and equitable outcomes for everyone involved.
Sterling Cunio, C@P storyteller and member of the spiritual care team, is the lead NVC trainer. He became adept in the practice while housed at Oregon State Penitentiary. In addition to leading the practice groups, Sterling is also leading a smaller group to become teachers too. “NVC helps us to witness our thinking and to reframe judgment and blame,” Sterling said. “It offers up a larger vocabulary of feelings, while training us to find the source of our feelings in different parts of the body. It removes the artificial boundaries we create between ‘us’ and ‘them’. And, as it relates to being resilient to being traumatized again, NVC helps us understand and practice better self-care, because in order to be consistently resourceful for others, we must be emotionally grounded ourselves.”
A novel idea being developed at C@P involves the Safety Team, all trained in NVC and other peacekeeping methods. “We could, for example, contract with other nonprofit organizations, having members of our Safety Team be on hand to connect with unsheltered individuals on their property, to help redirect them to services and positive locations,” said D.J. Vincent, executive director of C@P.
WE NEED SHELVING!
Thanks to all of the wonderful donations we’ve been receiving from the community, we are needing to reorganize our donations center so that we can have more space. Click the button to order the specific shelves.
Shelves can be shipped to 2111 Front St NE, Suite 1-103, Salem, OR 97301.
If you are interested in donating other shelving, please use the button to contact Cheyenne to see if the shelving will be an appropriate fit in our space.
We are excited to announce that our next storytelling event will be held on March 23rd at 7:00PM. The event will be at the Community Health Education Center at Salem Hospital.
If you have never been to one of these events, they are a chance for our community to hear real stories from people with lived experiences of homelessness.
"THE OBVIOUS ANSWER TO HOMELESSNESS"
The Atlantic featured an in-depth exploration of the cause of homelessness in America. Below are some excerpts from the article:
”…when we have a dire shortage of affordable housing, it’s all but guaranteed that a certain number of people will become homeless. In musical chairs, enforced scarcity is self-evident. In real life, housing scarcity is more difficult to observe—but it’s the underlying cause of homelessness.
In their book, Homelessness Is a Housing Problem, the University of Washington professor Gregg Colburn and the data scientist Clayton Page Aldern demonstrate that “the homelessness crisis in coastal cities cannot be explained by disproportionate levels of drug use, mental illness, or poverty.” Rather, the most relevant factors in the homelessness crisis are rent prices and vacancy rates.
Colburn and Aldern note that some urban areas with very high rates of poverty (Detroit, Miami-Dade County, Philadelphia) have among the lowest homelessness rates in the country, and some places with relatively low poverty rates (Santa Clara County, San Francisco, Boston) have relatively high rates of homelessness. The same pattern holds for unemployment rates: “Homelessness is abundant,” the authors write, “only in areas with robust labor markets and low rates of unemployment—booming coastal cities.”
Jennifer, has recently been promoted from Case Manager to Guest Services Assistant Manager at our Village of Hope site! Here is what Maria, VOH Manager and Shelter Operations Manager had to say about Jennifer:
“Since the moment I met Jennifer I knew that she would be easy to work with. Her personality and relational skills make it so easy to communicate with her, build relationships and work with her. Jennifer cares deeply for the people we serve and commits to providing the best service she can. Recently, Jennifer was promoted to the Guest Support Assistant Manager role and has been doing an awesome job! We are so proud to be part of a team with her. I am so appreciative of the time I've gotten to work with her. She has so much knowledge and capacity and look forward to her continuous growth”.
Thank you Jennifer for all you do!
PET CARE MATCHING GRANT
CBS News recently shared an uplifting story about the reunification of an unsheltered person and her dog.
In order to find shelter and housing, many people are often faced with the difficult decision of remaining unsheltered or giving up beloved pets. The CBS News story is a heartwarming story about a reunion between a pet and a formerly unhoused woman.
At C@P, we allow people to remain with their pets while they are staying with us. We make every effort to make sure that people’s pets are well cared for.
“The Golden Ruleism Team”has generously offered to match up to $25,000 in donations specifically for pet care at C@P. C@P is connecting guests and pets with local veterinarians who will provide critical care and S&N procedures.
Please consider making a donation. Every dollar donated up to $25,000 will be matched by the Golden Ruleism Team.
Project Partners: MWV Community Action Agency, MWV United Way—Safe Sleep United, Center for Hope and Safety, and local Veterinarians.
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.
VOLUNTEER: We are so thankful for a community of people who continue to donate food, clothing, tents, and supplies to our guests at C@P! We are currently looking for volunteers to help us sort through the generous amounts of donations we are receiving! If you’ve got some organizational skills, or just a desire to help, please click the button below.
JOIN OUR TEAM: We are currently hiring for a number of positions and shifts, including Case Managers, graveyard shift receptionists, and Safety Team members. Additionally, as we move towards the opening of a new Micro-Shelter site specifically for young adults, we will be hiring even more people in the upcoming season. If you are interested in working with Church At The Park, click the button below to see the open positions.
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?
SHUTTLE TOUR FOR ALL SITES - Interested in taking a tour of all of our sites while having a conversation with DJ, C@P founder? The next available tour is on Thursday, February 23rd from Noon to 2:00PM. We have a bus with comfy seats for 12. Bring your own lunch. If you or your group are interested, send Krystal an email.
WE NEED HYGIENE ITEMS - We are currently trying to replenish our stock of hygiene items. We are only able to accept new and unopened items. Needs include: deodorant, diapers, wipes, shampoo, shaving cream, razors, etc. Drop-offs can be made at our CCS Micro-Shelter location: (3749 Portland RD NE)
THE OPEN TABLE
Our church community is seeking to invite guests, staff and community members to a growing table of love and acceptance on a weekly basis. “Liturgy” refers to the habits and practices humans use to form community around shared values and meaning. We desire to be a community of practice, becoming people who see the world through the eyes of the marginalized, making meaning through the lens of pain and suffering, and committing ourselves to non-violence in a wounded world. Below are some of our regular liturgical practices:
Weekly Liturgy reflections are sent out each Monday
Grief Groups are monthly gatherings, as well as upon the loss of a person in our community
Soul Care is offered monthly for self care and spiritual formation.
One of our community practices is to meet every Sunday morning for The Open Table. The Open Table is a gathering for prayer, friendship, and conversation about the week’s Scripture text. Doors open at 10:30am for coffee and donuts. The circle begins at 11:00am. Community members, guests, staff are all welcome. (2640 Portland RD NE)
The season of Lent began this past week on Ash Wednesday. Lent is the 40-ish day season in the Christian calendar that precedes Easter. The season is often marked by practices of prayer, fasting, and repentance.
The reading for this past week was from Matthew 6 and included Jesus’s direction that we beware of practicing our piety before others in order to be seen by others as pious. The reading for this upcoming week is the story of Jesus fasting in the wilderness.
Many people celebrate Ash Wednesday by attending a service where a cross of ashes is marked on people’s forehead. The ashes on our forehead remind us that we are mortal beings. “Dust you are and to dust you shall return.” We were created from the dust and the dirt and, if our stories follow the traditional plot, we end up in the dirt.
The ashes also remind us that we are all part of the same family. We are all made from the same stuff. Maya Angelou put it this way:
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
Here is how one pastor and author described Ash Wednesday:
“Here’s my image of Ash Wednesday: If our lives were a long piece of fabric with our baptism on one end and our funeral on another, and we don’t know the distance between the two, then Ash Wednesday is a time when that fabric is pinched in the middle and the ends are held up so that our baptism in the past and our funeral in the future meet. The water and words from our baptism plus the earth and words from our funerals have come from the past and future to meet us in the present. And in that meeting we are reminded of the promises of God: That we are God’s, that there is no sin, no darkness, and yes, no grave that God will not come to find us in and love us back to life. These promises outlast our earthly bodies and the limits of time.”
A poem by Maya Angelou
Human Family I note the obvious differences In the human family. Some of us are serious, Some thrive on comedy. Some declare their lives are lived As true profundity, And others claim they really live The real reality. The variety of our skin tones Can confuse, bemuse, delight, Brown and pink and beige and purple, Tan and blue and white. I've sailed upon the seven seas And stopped in every land, I've seen the wonders of the world Not yet one common man.
I know ten thousand women Called Jane and Mary Jane, But I've not seen any two Who really were the same.
Mirror twins are different Although their features jibe, And lovers think quite different thoughts While lying side by side.
We love and lose in China, We weep on England's moors, And laugh and moan in Guinea, And thrive on Spanish shores.
We seek success in Finland, Are born and die in Maine. In minor ways we differ, In major we're the same.
I note the obvious differences Between each sort and type, But we are more alike, my friends, Than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends, Than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends, Than we are unalike.
Thanks for reading.