As Eugene’s planning failures lead to record homelessness and another year designated as a severely rent-burdened city, the Chamber of Commerce steps up with much-needed leadership. One highlight from 2023: the Community Solutions Summit. Here are clips from its session on shelter.
Pastor Gabe Piechowicz (Everyone Village): My name is Gabe. It’s a pleasure to be here with all you awesome humans.
[00:00:21] And I’m excited to share a little bit about what’s happening at Everyone Village. Out in yonder West Eugene, not too far from here, not too long ago, we started an experimental kind of shelter reality, really leaning heavily into private business partnerships. And so, four acres started the story as a donation from the Rexius Company and family, and we’ve been hot guns a-blazin’ since.
[00:00:42] We now have over 60 tiny homes at Everyone Village where folks are being sheltered from the streets. We have innovative programming, and we have a 3,500-square-foot Resource Community Center, where we’re really intentional on bringing walls down between neighborhoods, communities, and folks living in transitional shelter sites.
[00:01:00] Because what was said earlier is absolutely true: You can have a hot dog and play a good game of cornhole with someone even if they live in a transitional shelter site, believe it or not.
[00:01:08] So one of the things that we have going there, which is really exciting, just to share as a highlight, is we, through our Welcome Center and Resource Center, we have a workshop, we’re in partnership with Constructing a Brighter Future where folks that live at Everyone Village are helping to build shelters to help themselves and others and learn job skills along the way.
[00:01:25] We also have the state’s only alternative redemption recycling program at Everyone Village in partnership with the Oregon Beverage and Recycling Cooperative, where we are affording transitional employment opportunities to folks that live at Everyone Village so that they can get that piece of their lives charged up and ready to go as they seek out flourishing and shelter and healing.
[00:01:44] And all of this at Everyone Village we do in a relational model which brings into a sweet balance, support, encouragement, friendship, leadership, and accountability so that folks can actually get from point A to point B—which is from unsheltered to flourishing—and giving back to the community that’s giving to them now.
[00:02:00] The challenges that we’re experiencing here in the village are going to require your help to overcome. And you’re doing it right now. So when I go back after this to the village and share what happened in this room and what was said and who was here, that buoys the staff, that helps to push back a little bit on staff fatigue because they know they’re not alone in the fight, they’re not. There’s people behind them while they’re on the front lines, thinking and talking and speaking and investing into the solutions that we have as a community.
[00:02:26] So, one of the challenges is we need sustainable big-time funding, and that’s going to be government-based, yes? Yes. So, the problem, though, is so big and gnarly, in order to respond well and get the edge on it, we have to be nimble and able to pivot and adapt quickly. That doesn’t marry very well with big government funding movements.
[00:02:46] So, privatized business leaders and internal geniuses of Lane County: We need you to step into the shelter space and into the response space and help with your thoughts, your ideas, your experiences, your acumen, your creativity and innovation. And then we’ll find winsome creative ways to sew the two together so that we have the perfect, dual-headed response of sustainable funding from the government, which is, that’s part of their role, and then private business innovation and creativity helping to unlock sticky wickets, of which we have plenty.
[00:03:15] While these bigger sweeping macro-movements are happening that are orchestrated and funded largely at the federal level, we do need the wisdom to be in that space and coming back and forth between our little, little community on the West Coast and that big institution.
[00:03:29] But I think there’s a lot of power and value in us coming together, like I said, as a pioneer-based region with an innovative and creative spirit, and let’s do what we can on the ground in small ways, use what we’re being given from the federal level, pull our other existing resources locally together, and get some wins on the table.
[00:03:46] Because probably what could happen out of that, I would guess, is if we start doing it on our own, it’s only a matter of time before those bigger movements take notice and say things such as, or ponder things such as: ‘Boy, we want to put our investment where it matters, where things are happening, where successes are being achieved and new systems are being created.’
[00:04:06] So I think we have a lot of power in our own hands to catch the attention and use our history as Lane County as an innovative county in the Northwest to make a mark, make a stamp, and have people paying attention.
[00:04:18] Community First Village in Austin, Texas, which is born out of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, an innovative street outreach of a food truck—it is full of innovation. It is an all-encompassing reality where the Community First Village mirrors the larger community it’s a part of, and it’s got it all: good celebrations, good services, work, recreation, housing, all that good stuff.
[00:04:41] They are set up to receive Section 8 vouchers for a lot of the folks that they serve. And I don’t know that there’s a model for that here right now, but one thing we could conceive of as an innovative business community is: What does it look like over the next five years to 10 years, while we have these bigger macro-movements happening, to find little patchwork pieces of ground around our community where we can start setting up small, easy-to-get-going micro-villages of folks with HUD-approved tiny homes that can receive Section 8 vouchers, which then makes that a sustainable model.
[00:05:16] And again, it’s just this patchwork growth underneath the bigger movements to help improve our local situation.
[00:05:21] I’m not afraid to ask for help. And we need it, boy howdy! It’s a big sticky wicket obviously.
[00:05:26] Here’s where we need help. We need big, big energy. It’s a big, big problem. It has its own big, big energy as we know. And it’s moving fast and it’s growing. So we need to match and exceed that. Which means we need you all to step down into these various spaces: Prevention, sheltering, all that good stuff, and just start investing, making the connections to everyone’s wisdom up here.
[00:05:46] Start with the relational piece first. It’s so easy to say, ‘Hey, my name is Gabe. Nice to meet you.’
[00:05:51] You can affirm humanity without condoning behavior all day long. So start making the connections with those that are experiencing homelessness around your sphere of life. Start connecting with a local provider or prevention or shelter care, whoever’s kind of meeting your fancy inside. You’re going to get charged up when you hear about it.
[00:06:09] And start toeing in and seeing what magic can happen. I don’t know how else to explain it, but, you can get the problem up on its heels if you come at it with unexpected maneuvers. And there’s not much more unexpected than the logger guy, Rexius bark mulch guy, and Chamber folks coming together with a bunch of awesome folks and the city Homeless Services team and creating a way for folks to get help.
[00:06:32] A couple of things that are exciting in the service space is there’s a kind of a new energy around collaboration and letting down of pride and really coming together strategically and cohesively.
[00:06:43] All In certainly supports and facilitates that, but it started happening before All In, which is just a natural reflection, I think, of our area. We do have a pioneer spirit in our region, and Eugene-Springfield as a community and cities, we have an innovative way of doing things. And we’re well known for that.
[00:07:10] And that’s being felt at the shelter level by the folks that are being served. So they are starting to see, ‘Hey, this is a big community effort, and maybe the time for just receiving services is over, and maybe I’ve got a part to play, too.’
[00:07:25] So many of the folks that receive services at Everyone Village are so excited to hear about what’s happening in spaces like this. It motivates them and excites them and gives them belief that they’re valued, that they belong, and that they can actually be part of the solution the whole community is lifting together.
[00:07:39] So, pretty exciting stuff. If you want to see it in person, please come to Everyone Village. We’ll show you all about it.