COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER - January 29
10 THINGS WORTH HIGHLIGHTING THIS WEEK . . .
HUMANITY OF HOMELESSNESS
This is John.
From Ashley, Case Manager at Village of Hope:
When I first met John, I was a part of the Outreach Team at C@P.
John was in BAD shape staying in an abandoned trailer.
The City of Salem asked us to check on the person staying in the trailer because it was going to be towed. C@P and a close community partner were very concerned with his living conditions. Through some advocacy at a navigation meeting, we offered John a spot at our Village Of Hope site.
John was able to get stability and obtain medical during his stay here. John began to start the journey on getting the tools to help his quality of life.
On January 17th, John entered a medical transport vehicle to go to a permanent housing facility that could support him with his high needs. Those of us who knew John were smiling because he always kept us on our toes, from the water fight at the old site to sharing a smart remark when you walked by.
This is an example of the bittersweet part of our job. We will miss him, but we are grateful for his success at another agency.
STORIES FROM THE POINT-IN-TIME COUNT
The annual Point in Time Count took place last week.A group of C@P staff went out to Cascades Gateway Park for the count.Two of them, Helena, our HR manager, and Ryan, our accountant, shared some reflections about their experience.
I was surprised at how open they re. Some of the questions are pretty invasive and almost everyone I talked to barely blinked an eye.
There is no cookie cutter template for people experiencing homelessness. It can happen to anyone for any reason. And I love being able to break stereotypes about why we are out at the park and what C@P is doing.
[One thing that was hard] was meeting someone who had only been out in the park for a week and a half after their RV was towed.
A big THANK YOU to everyone in our community who volunteered to participate in this year’s PIT Count!
PARTNERSHIP WITH OTHER CONGREGATIONS
Yogi Berra’s Advice: When You Come to a Fork in the Road…Take It!
One of our community partners, Tim Buckley, wrote the following article about a partnership between C@P and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Salem (UUCS). In 2018, several social justice-oriented members of UUCS decided that growing homelessness was a wakeup call to organize, research and raise funds to build a transition home on the church property. “Our initial thought was a small village of 10 tiny bungalows on a half-acre lot, with a central building that has bathrooms, laundry, cooking and meeting space,” said Paul Wilson, one of the committee members. The village plan would include a resident management team, run by a local service provider. Part of the committee began the design process, led by John Davenport. Joan Stembridge and Jeanne Collins researched social service organizations between Seattle and Eugene that had already developed a comprehensive approach to serving those living unsheltered. Their research informed their operating plan. Others approached the County planning staff and quickly learned that zoning restrictions would prevent anything more than a single house with room for five residents.
By early 2020, the group had launched a nonprofit, Habitat and Hope Village, Inc., (HHV) and had raised over $40,000, with strong leadership from its board members.For his part, Wilson had been an active volunteer with other social service groups and had participated in Salem Leadership Foundation’s Community Partnership Team meetings. “I’d seen D.J. Vincent’s efforts as a facilitator and organizer over time,” Wilson said. “His vision, persistence and commitment to successfully take on things that hadn’t been done before was inspiring. And, as he led the growth of Church at the Park (C@P) I saw their philosophy, protocols and service plans were in line with best practices we found elsewhere.” “That was good news to us,” Wilson continued, “but, C@P could only take on management responsibility for our proposed facility if it housed 10 people or more. When we learned that, our board decided to pivot 180 degrees. I think it was George Struble who came up with the idea that we could dedicate the money we had raised to help C@P procure a portable shower facility built on trailers.” Davenport, the group’s designer, then sketched out a durable ADA-accessible shower building constructed on a trailer that could hook up to city utilities. Using that concept, with input from C@P and others, the group contracted with Edomo Homes in West Salem, who had built some of the micro shelters for C@P’s other unsheltered communities. In early July 2022, the 3-shower trailer-mounted facility was delivered to the Safe Parking Site managed by C@P at the DMV site on Portland Road. Wilson said it has performed up to expectations, its rugged, waterproof design allowing for hundreds of uses a week. “We had done research of other manufacturers. Their products cost roughly twice as much and required more maintenance,” he said.
HHV recently disbanded, having been set up to build something on church property. The group decided to donate the remaining funds in their account to C@P for construction of a portable laundry facility, similar to the showers built by Edomo Homes (now Cozy Homes). Wilson said that project should be completed this month, and that longtime church members George and Elsa Struble have funded the balance necessary to complete the project, at a cost similar to that of the HHV funded shower trailer.
“It’s gratifying that there are many ways in which local people who want to help can do so,” Wilson continued. “What began as an in-house project at UUCS quickly evolved into something that other people and organizations helped to complete. It’s a tribute to C@P for being able to facilitate those outside resources. It seems to me that the only way to meet the growing needs in Salem is with this kind of cooperative approach, one in which traditional silos of responsibility are more permeable and flexible.”
SERVING ON MLK DAY
We were beyond grateful to have Willamette University’s volleyball team and Corban University’s Track & Field team at our donation center to help sort through donations.
This is Christopher.
C@P is sad to see one of our longest employees go, but we are excited for Christopher’s new journey.
“I am so thankful for all the hard work Christopher has done for C@P! Christopher has facilitated intake for hundreds of families and individuals into our shelter programs. We are truly grateful for Christopher and his passion to support and walk alongside those in the midst of crisis to help them find stability and healing.”
—Matt (Data & Navigation Services Director)
Thank you Christopher, for all of the hard work you have put in to help individuals break through barriers.
We will miss you!
JOIN OUR TEAM
We are currently hiring for a number of positions, including a Data Director, Case Mangers, 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.
THE OPEN TABLE
One of our community practices is to gather every Sunday morning for prayer, friendship, and conversation about the week’s Scripture text. We welcome anyone and everyone to join us. Doors open at 10:30am for coffee and donuts. Our circle begins at 11:00am. We’d love to see you there!
The Open Table (@ The old DMV) 2640 N Portland Road
PET CARE MATCHING GRANT
C@P provides low-barrier shelter for people. That means that 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.
A recent article in the Statesman Journal about Senate Bill 496 had this to say about pets and unsheltered people:
According to a report submitted by the Humane Society of the United States in support of the bill, a 2019 Oregon Statewide Shelter Study determined the inability to shelter with a pet or service animal ranked among the top 10 barriers to shelter. In the write-in responses, the inability to shelter with a pet ranked number 4 in barriers.
Housing-related issues are reported consistently among the top reasons for pet relinquishment, said Jessica Simpson, Senior Public Policy Specialist for the Humane Society of the United States during a public legislative hearing on the bill.
"Too many people are faced with the devastating decision to either surrender their pet or have access to essential resources," Simpson said.
The Golden Ruleism Team has generously offered to match up to $25,000 in donations specifically for pet care. They are also connecting C@P 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.
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.
ROUGH SLEEPERS - Book Recommendation
Author Tracy Kidder wrote a book profiling Dr. Jim O’Connell, who has been providing medical care to unsheltered people on the streets of Boston for nearly 40 years. O’Connell founded Boston Health Care for The Homeless Program in 1985. The Boston Globe profiled Dr. O’Connell in 2015. From the profile: As a young man, the doctor made a promise. He would do this kind of work for one year. It was, he believed, all anyone could stand.
Practicing medicine on the street is too taxing. It pushes its practitioners to the edge of their physical and emotional limits. One year, he told himself, and then it’s time for oncology. What’s that old saying? Man plans and God laughs. Years later, the doctor, Jim O’Connell, found himself on a train, re-reading a book about Sisyphus, the Greek mythological figure doomed to roll an enormous boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down – a cycle repeated into eternity. “Oh, my God! This is about my life,’’ O’Connell remembers thinking. “I’m doing nothing but pushing this rock up the hill. But then I started seeing a different side. I think the work I get to do is a blessing. I am unencumbered by routine, and the people we take care of really appreciate it. It’s a gratifying way to live.’’
From the book review in the LA Times: Tracy Kidder tagged along with Dr. Jim. “His patients, and prospective patients, were sleeping in doorways, arguing drunkenly with statues in parks,” Kidder writes. “I had rarely spoken to such people and congratulated myself when I had. For me, the night’s tour was a glimpse of a world hidden in plain sight. I was left with a memory of vivid faces and voices, and with a general impression of harsh survival, leavened by affection between a doctor and his patients.”
To read “Rough Sleepers” is to confront not only the consequences of homelessness, but to wrestle with knowing that, as terrible as the problem is now, it would so be much worse if not for the sacrifices of people like O'Connell.
This week’s reading from the scriptures is the beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew. Josh Erickson, our Chief Operations Officer, wrote an honest and thoughtful reflection on the passage for the Street Psalms community. Here is what he wrote:
A few years ago we ended up adopting an 18-year-old woman (we’ll call her Carla) into our family. She had been abused and rejected by her family — the stories were heartbreaking. We gave her a safe space to catch her breath and find stability.
Eventually, her younger sister (let’s call her Alie) started coming around the house. The more we did life together, the more trust grew. When we had to move across the state, they joined us. They were a part of our family, a wild pair that infused laughter and joy into all of our lives. My children grew to know them as siblings and we loved them as our own.
The day after Christmas, Carla came to our house. She couldn’t even make it in the door before she collapsed into my wife’s arms and sobbed. I came out to the front porch, where they both sat on the ground crying, and learned that Alie, her younger sister, had been killed by a falling tree as she drove down the interstate. Our collective breath was taken from us.
Honestly, trying to find the words to describe the anger, pain, and confusion I've felt this month has been difficult. The last few weeks this scripture has been in the back of my mind as I’ve helped Carla get things figured out, went to Alie’s memorial, and had hard conversations with my family. I’ve been searching for meaning in this scripture…searching for some truth to reveal itself to me. Searching for some relief to share with Carla and my family.
I was struggling to see the kingdom that is offered to those that are poor in spirit. I was struggling to see the blessings in this situation. What kingdom is Carla’s? Let's be honest, to even suggest that Carla could be “blessed” while she was mourning seemed cruel.
I never came up with anything to say. All I found myself able to do was sit and mourn with them, until I could barely even handle that. On the day of Alie’s wake, I went to the service to accompany Carla; I had no intention of taking part in the viewing. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. They had decided to have her lying on a table rather than in a casket.
There was no escaping the reality of her lifeless body. The sight knocked the air out of my lungs; it felt like I was punched in the chest. So I ran. I literally ran away from the room and into the hallway. But just as I caught my breath, I heard Carla enter the room. She screamed and began sobbing. At that moment, I realized I couldn’t escape without abandoning her. I headed back into the room and held her as she sobbed.
When I think about Carla, my heart breaks. Her sister was her person — the one that kept her grounded and sane. It’s easy to see how she could be filled with hopelessness, despair, and resentment. It’s not immediately clear where the blessings, comfort, or Kingdom can be found in this story.
The way I have come to see the Beatitudes is that it is Jesus' way of challenging the religious status quo. To challenge the idea that the blessings were for the elite, the pious, and those that were born in the right place; they are for the broken, the poor, and the marginalized. In fact, the Kingdom of Heaven has been designed with people like Carla and Alie at the center.
Jesus is inviting us to help create this Kingdom. The invitation is for us to create a community around those that are broken and mourning. To mourn when they mourn. To give voice to those whose voices have been quieted. To show mercy to the reviled. To be people of peace in a world that praises violence. That the kingdom being offered here is a new community that sees your worth. That loves you, hopes with you, laughs with you, and mourns with you.
I might not have found the words to share with Carla, but in the midst of all the mourning I know there was comfort. In the midst of our brokenness there was a community of belonging.
Thanks for reading.
Hope [is not] hope until all ground for hope has vanished.
— Marianne Moore