COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER - March 26
10 THINGS WORTH HIGHLIGHTING THIS WEEK . . .
LIFE IN A MICRO-SHELTER
Stacy, a guest at Village of Hope, was featured in Dwell Magazine
Dwell magazine featured an article asking people about their experiences living in micro-shelters. One of our guests, Stacy, got to share his perspective on living at Village of Hope.
From the article:
Stacy Hunt’s long stretch of housing insecurity started in 1995. When the Georgia native took a good friend who was unhoused into his North Salem apartment, that friend invited lots of other people over, and eventually Hunt’s landlord kicked him out—even while he had a stable job at a food-processing facility. He moved back in with his mom at her home of roughly two decades, but in 2015, a stroke left her paralyzed and she moved to Tacoma to live with Hunt’s brother. Then, in 2018, Hunt received a foreclosure notice on the house. The owner gave him two months to pack everything and move out. After a few years living under a bridge and in city parks, Hunt met an outreach worker from Church At The Park who encouraged him to apply for a tiny house last summer at the Salem organization’s 40-pod micro-shelter community, Village of Hope. His 72-square-foot unit is made by local manufacturer Cozy Homes.
[Stacy:] Let me tell you the bad stuff first: The pods are really small, and it’s not enough space for two people. We have to have a roommate. It’s so tiny—and people have stuff! It’s crowded and there are tensions. The last roommate I didn’t like too well. He called me every dirty name in the book. I talked to the staff. If I was to hit him, then I’d be kicked out. I didn’t wanna do that. They talked to him, so I went back in. And then he starts throwing things at me! I have a different roommate now. We get along much better.
I also have a girlfriend who lives here. I’ve known her since I was living at Cascades Gateway Park. She has a dog that loves me to death. Me and her want to move in together, but to be in the same pod, we would’ve had to sign up together. They say the rules are you can’t be in each other’s pods. I can understand not allowing people in from the outside. But when I’m in a relationship...we might want to sit down and watch TV or a movie, you know? Nope, nope, can’t do that.
Other than that, my pod is nice and warm. Sometimes it be so hot I have to go out and get some fresh air. We got little space heaters—boy, they put out some heat. In the summer, we had this big old air conditioner. I’d pick these over a tent any day. The good part is being out of the cold and not having to worry about a tent. But the bad thing is having two people in a small area. If they could get more of the micro-shelters, it’d be great!
I like this location. We’re not too far from downtown. Also, we’re on the bus line. We can go in and out whenever we want. But if we want to go to, say, the coast, we’ll let them know how long we’re gonna go and be back. If you don’t call in, you get kicked out. We can’t use alcohol or drugs. We’ve got a designated smoking area.
We get dinner seven days a week. Sometimes people donate food, too. There are two pods out there [in the parking lot]. One is for storage for extra stuff; the other is for clothing. There’s also one with a shower and another that’s a laundry room.
Everybody loves me here! I’m like a celebrity. They say, "Hey, Stacy, how ya doin’?!" I told the staff, "Anybody disrespects you here, you better hold me back!" These people come out of their way to help you, and you get off the streets and are going to sit here and disrespect them?”
C@P CAREER FAIR
As we move towards opening a new micro-shelter community for young adults, we will be holding a career fair for anyone who is interested in exploring working with C@P.
STORYTELLING EVENT AT SALEM HEALTH
Thanks to everyone who made our recent storytelling such an enjoyable experience: The brave and compelling storytellers, violinist Mark Babson, Salem Health for their hospitality, Sterling for organizing the event, and to everyone who gave up their evening be with us!
The next storytelling event will be on Wednesday, June 28th at the Loucks Auditorium at Salem Public Library. Stay tuned for more details.
HUMANITY OF HOMELESSNESS
Say hello to Ana.
Ana is an outreach case manager with C@P. She shared her story at the storytelling event and agreed to share it here. One of the aspects of our work that was highlighted at the event was our partnership with Salem Health. We participated in a project with Salem Health to see what would happen if we specifically targeted services towards unsheltered people who were frequent users of emergency services (9-1-1, ambulance, and hospital). The project demonstrated that when people have safe, stable, and supportive shelter, there is a drastic reduction of the burden placed on emergency services. Ana was not a part of that project, but her story has a similar plot.
Here is what she shared: During my last relapse, between December 22, 2021 and February 25, 2022, I visited the ER 17 times, including 3 visits within 36 hours.
Homelessness and addiction can happen to anyone, and I never imagined it was going to happen to me. I grew up in a christian home and graduated with honors. I was studying to be a private pilot and held accounting and bookkeeping jobs. During that time I was very co-dependent and dealt with a lot of anxiety. I drank daily to cope and was a functioning alcoholic for a long time, until I wasn’t. I lost jobs left and right and began hanging out with the local drunks. At the time we were living with a grandparent. Because of my excessive drinking, there came a point when my mom told me I had to stop drinking or leave the house. I chose to walk out that day and that is how I became homeless. That bondage led me from jumping from city to city then state to state, staying with friends and family, burning bridges in the process, and back on the road trying to figure out my next step. I thought if I changed my environment I would change. Unfortunately I learned the hard way that that's not how it works. I tried to get sober through detox, rehab, 5150s and AA (AA didn’t work for me because I knew that addiction is not a lifelong disease), but I couldn’t manage to stay sober, everytime I relapsed harder and harder. During this entire time, I knew God could free me from addiction and I never gave up on that hope. To be a female homeless addict comes with a lot of bad choices and chaos. I hung out with people that I thought cared about me but was taken advantage of almost all the time. I began to lie and steal for my addiction and wanted to drink as much as possible to forget and black out. I began having seizures from not having alcohol or not enough alcohol in my system, sometimes 4 a day. That is how I was at the hospital so many times. There were times I went because I was scared I'd die of a seizure and I knew if I was at the ER, I was safe and had the chance to live. There came a lot of points where I knew I wanted out, but it wasn’t until I was back home in LA when the time came. I went back home to get sober but unfortunately, was back on the streets with the local drunks. One night around 3am, I couldn’t sleep and felt like I needed to drink. I left my moms and walked a few blocks down. Three of my “friends” were in a car drinking Bacardi. I went and joined them, but nothing was happening. I started getting anxious and thought maybe I needed wine. It was now 6am and the alcohol still wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t getting drunk anymore. I knew at that point that God came through and I was on my way to the hospital to detox. My mother and brother were praying for me non-stop during this process. Thankfully in LA the hospitals keep you for a few days to detox you. I had to go twice because of how severe my withdrawals were. Once I was sober, they both asked me what I wanted to do, I told them I wanted to go back to Salem because that's where I was already trying to start a life. I was lost and chained by the addiction of alcoholism and God delivered me from it. By the grace of God, I am here to say that I am a living testimony of the power of God! The desire and cravings of alcohol are completely gone. I do NOT have to struggle with this for the rest of my life because Jesus broke my chains and opened the prison door I was in. There is freedom and victory over addiction! Jesus gave me a new heart, a new spirit and is continually renewing my mind. And I don’t go through any trauma from my past because I rely on God's promises and His Word. I am thankful for God not changing me everytime I asked, He had a greater purpose and that’s why I am here today speaking to you. God willing, I am coming up on two years of sobriety! I have my own place, a car and a job that I have been able to hold down. I do outreach case management and walk alongside whoever allows me to be a part of their journey, to show that they are loved and there is freedom. Because of what I went through, I am able to understand others and have compassion for them. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17) All the glory is to God!
Thank you, Ana, for being brave and vulnerable enough to share your life and your story!
MAYOR HOY'S STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
from the Salem Reporter
From the Salem Reporter: Much of Hoy’s speech focused on the city’s efforts to improve homeless services and expand shelter. “Decades of under-prioritizing behavioral health services and access to housing have compounded year after year, and now the need is so great that we see it every day, on almost every corner,” he said.
He said every person deserves a home where they feel safe. “For too many Salem residents their home may be a tent on the side of a road, a mattress in a warming shelter, or the cold fear of staring into the darkness with nowhere to go. People who live on our streets live in fear of being victimized, of not knowing where they will sleep. Fear of their belongings being stolen and of declining health. We must be better stewards of each other,” he said. Hoy listed the recent investments by the city, including micro-shelters and staffing for outreach services. In January 2022, the council approved three micro shelter sites to be managed by Church at the Park, which Hoy said allows people a place to sleep and store their belongings. During the following year, over half of people who stayed at Salem’s micro-shelters moved on to more permanent housing or inpatient care.
The city has also invested to expand the Safe Sleep shelter from 19 to 45 beds. The low-barrier women’s shelter opened in 2019 and is operated by the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley. Hoy mentioned the city’s investment in Mosaic, a converted motel shelter available to survivors of domestic violence, stalking and trafficking. Hoy also noted the continual use of the Safe Park Program which gives people who live in their cars access to bathrooms, storage and security. He introduced the concept while on city council in 2019. He also noted the city has put more money into the Salem Warming Network. Last year, he said the Salem Outreach and Livability Services Team continued to build relationships with people who are homeless in the community.
EASTER VOLUNTEER / DONATION NEEDS
We are looking for donations, volunteers, and meal partners to bless our guests for Easter. We would love to be able to provide our guests, especially the children, with a delicious Easter meal, an Easter egg hunt, and other resources.
If you, your church, or your business are interested, please let us know.
MOVE-OUT & PARTNER HIGHLIGHT
Cynthia, William, and their son became guests at CCS in August of 2022. William is a construction worker and Cynthia is a stay-at-home mom. After searching for and putting in applications at numerous apartments, they finally moved into a place of their own last week. They are grateful for the support of St. Francis’ Rapid Re-Housing program, which helped them find a comfortable 2-bedroom apartment.
Cynthia and William experienced lots of rejection in their housing search, but they never gave up and kept pushing forward.
We are glad that we got to get to know them, that we got to walk alongside of them, and we are very excited for their future!
St. Francis is a frequent landing spot for C@P guests. St. Francis Family Housing is the largest unrestricted provider of transitional housing for homeless families with children under age 18 in Marion and Polk Counties. To better serve families, St. Francis Shelter also offers rental assistance to help families transition into safe, permanent housing.
Founded in 1987, St. Francis provides a safe place for families to heal and stabilize before finding permanent housing. And during their over 30 years in Salem, they’ve helped well over 1,000
families find safe, stable housing. St. Francis and their amazing staff are a huge blessing to C@P and the rest of the community! Read more about their work by clicking the button below.
PET CARE MATCHING GRANT
From Ana, C@P Outreach Case Manager:
John was one of the earliest community members who invested in C@P and helped create meaningful connections to those who called Cascades Gateway Park home. He considers himself a charter member of C@P and is very proud of it! He has volunteered in many roles over the last 15 years and consistently invited others in the Salem area to find meaning and belonging through the C@P community.
He became a resident with us at Village of Hope in January and this past week he moved into a home of his own! John is thrilled to be moving into a home, especially one with a room with a TV in it!
It took a lot of teamwork and working with community partners to come together to walk alongside John, but it was God that made the door open quickly.
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 GoldenRuleism 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 GoldenRuleism 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: 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 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. The location is 2640 Portland RD NE.
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.
The reading for this past week was the story of the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11). Below are words and a prayer from a pastor who encourages us to see God at work in the tombs that are all around us. That’s the thing about tombs. Sometimes we don’t even know we are in them, until the light breaks from on high. But I know we all have them.
I wonder what it is for you. Is there something buried. Thought to be dead? Something that you have left for dead? What in your life might have been in such darkness that any kind of dawn would feel sudden and unexpected causing you to shield your eyes?
Sometimes tombs are about how we treat things in our life and though they represent the end. This relationship is over. This life of faith has ended. That time of happiness will never return. There’s a big stone covering that thing I used to feel or I used to love or I used to be and anyway, it’s started to smell of rot. That part of me is totally dead, period. End of sentence. But as great African American preachers often say – “where we put a period….God puts a comma”.
Having a God of resurrection means that the story is seldom over when we think it is. Only God can do this. Only God something so weird and unexpected and 100% surprising. Only God can call us out of tombs in this way.
In the season of Easter I often use a prayer at the Eucharist that says:
Therefore, with all who lost faith,
all who walked away in sadness,
with the women at the tomb,
and the men who hid in fear
we confess ourselves surprised
by the suddenness of dawn
and confess together the great mystery of faith:
Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again.
So as we move through this final week of Lent and into the great 3 days of Jesus’ own death and resurrection. Don’t assume you already know how the story goes. Be surprised.
Surprised by empty tombs, surprised by the thing you never saw coming. Surprised by how you can have something or someone taken from you which you thought you couldn’t live without and then finding yourself living without them anyway, surprised by sobriety, and that people can love you. Surprised that you tear up when receiving the Eucharist and that oh my gosh, you aren’t afraid of that one thing you used to be and surprised that maybe you can actually have a relationship with your body that is not adversarial anymore and surprised that a relationship you thought was dead is not and that maybe everyone doesn’t hate you after all. Surprised, as we say, at empty tombs and the suddenness of dawn.
This is how the God of resurrection is wanting to be known all around us. It’s happening everywhere, faith just lets us recognize the surprise of it. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Thanks for reading.
”We aren’t very good at evaluating others.”
In God’s economy, the weak regularly defeat the mighty. For some real world proof, look no further than the NCAA tournament. One example from this year: #16 seed Farleigh Dickinson University, the shortest team in the entire NCAA, beat #1 Purdue, the tallest team in the NCAA.