June 20, 2024

Whole Community News

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KEPW Reporters Roundtable ‘blown away’ by Springfield City Club panel

9 min read
Will Kramer ended the City Club by saying: "Look, we can talk about drugs and addiction all we want, but there's a deeper root to this issue. And the deeper root of this issue is that we as a community do not love each other or know each other as a community."

The Springfield City Club hosts a panel discussion on Measure 110 and hears from a person with lived experience of homelessness. At the KEPW Reporters Roundtable:

Sarah Koski (KEPW Reporters Roundtable): I reached out to (program organizer) Tiffany Edwards, and Tiffany said that there was going to be a peer support specialist, and she was looking for another panel member. And, you know, I think that there is this amazing opportunity for community collaboration and listening and this ebb and flow. But when Tiffany said, ‘Hey, Sarah, I would love for you to be on this panel,’ I immediately thought, ‘I’m not the right person for this. I’ve never experienced or used hard drugs in a chaotic manner. I’ve never really been out on the streets.’

[00:00:42] Like, I had this great experience being a case manager of 410 Safe Sleep. And so I asked Tiffany—and honestly, it was a wild hair—I said, Tiffany, I have this amazing advocate, homeless advisor, the police called him ‘the mayor of Bumtown’ when he was at 13th and Chambers. They, you know, they joked that he, mayor of Bumtown, but he was the mayor of 13th and Chambers because he has such a cult of personality, such a knowledge and wealth of understanding of this community.

[00:01:15] I met him working in homeless services. He is now housed, but this really amazing conversation that I had had with Will where he talked about his own privilege and then, you know, a few bad mistakes. And then his life immediately changes. And he has this quote, where he says, ‘I’ve been on the top of the world, and I’ve been on the bottom of the world—twice. The only difference is the size of my wallet.’

[00:01:42] And Will goes on to talk about how, you know, the same police officers that would wave to him, ‘Hello, good morning, Mr. Kramer,’ in this kind of picturesque television manner in the South Hills were the same cops that were sweeping him when he was subject to poverty.

[00:02:01] And so in a very capricious moment, I realized that that seat was not designated for me at City Club, but it was meant for someone who really knew what life was like with arrests and warrants and all of these different things and not necessarily saying that Will had these things, but he was around a community that experienced life, of what life was like directly impacted by Measure 110. And to my surprise, and honestly, with great admiration and respect, Tiffany said, ‘Let’s get him on.’

[00:02:34] So called in, checked with Will (Kramer), Will is like, ‘Go,’ and so here we are, we have a panel, Springfield City Club, at the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, amplifying voices like Will’s as a homeless advocate. And now we’re on a panel listening and hearing to Brittiny Raine from CORE (Community Outreach through Radical Empowerment), Will, and then wonderfully enough, two fabulous young women from Daisy CHAIN Lane who also received Measure 110 funding who are so fiery and beautiful and gorgeous and full of life were there as well.

[00:03:14] They work both as doulas but it’s harm reduction dealing with childbirth, going through the process of, you know, caring for your child, feeding your child, specifically tailored to women in addiction who could potentially currently be in addiction. And I didn’t think about this: If you’re pregnant and you’re actively using (drugs), I mean, that is a strong stigma, right? And so you may not have access to services, you may not get treated the best, you may not have resources available for you.

[00:03:51] So there’s this group of radical individuals that is just, they’re no judgment, like, ‘Okay, you got a kid, all right, what can we do to help you? Regardless of the choices you’re making, regardless of how much money you have we are just here to teach you and equip you with the skills.’

[00:04:10] So heartfelt and so amazing, so trauma-informed, so sensitive to the crowd, so loving, that having them there was just like the perfect mix of excellence, they even brought in heir two cents of their experiences.

[00:04:26] And Tiffany (Edwards, Springfield City Club) just opened up her arms and invited them onto the panel. And I’m telling you, the things that were said on this panel, I almost wish every person in Lane County could hear. I mean, you don’t know until you know, right?

[00:04:42] And so when people ask questions of, like, ‘There’s this role of the police and we need the police.’ Well, yes, of course, we need some sort of law and order. We have to operate with certain standards, right? And we need some sort of semblance of direction and guidance. I don’t think law and order is a bad thing.

[00:05:02] But what Brittiny (Raine) really talked about was, ‘Well, what does it mean to be enforcing? Can the community enforce?’ And really taking this trauma-informed approach.

[00:05:12] Where another question came in was like, well, ‘I think we should do this Housing First model. But if we do Housing First, we shouldn’t allow drug users to be in houses.’ And Brittiny was like, ‘Well, do we allow pain medication in houses? Do we allow alcohol in houses? Do we allow medicinal marijuana in houses? So what’s the difference between these things and something that you think is scary or obscene?’

[00:05:41] And then it opened up the door for Will to really talk about his experiences, what he saw on the street, how are people treated or perceived. And there was a really great question from Tiffany Edwards talking about bias and what are the terms that are associated with bias?

[00:06:00] And Will had talked about this woman on her porch, hearing Will (collecting) can in the middle of the night, which is not illegal, by the way, for someone to go and just kind of walk the neighborhoods and work at canning. And she said, ‘I knew it was someone like you,’ and used a very derogatory term. And was like, ‘I wish you would blow your brains out,’ right?

[00:06:23] And Will told the story of, ‘I was in such a low point that I took those woman’s words and I held on to them and I thought: Yes, this is what I should do.’

[00:06:35] And it just totally, the room just got quiet. Will and Brittiny brought such a human component to today that I don’t think I will even be able to fully comprehend for the next few weeks. Like, I’m going to have to go back and re-listen to this.

[00:06:51] And Will said something so profound because another person asked: ‘What causes you to want to get sober?’ And this is a really, really good conversation, especially when it comes to Measure 110.

[00:07:05] And Will said, he said, ‘Look, a lot of people have this moment where, you know, it’s like, oh, they get pregnant or, oh, there’s this time where I need to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get sober.’

[00:07:20] He goes, ‘No, my experience was totally different. I had a very traumatic experience at PeaceHealth, where they kept me alive and then they released me on the streets. And they set me out and I thought I was going to die on the streets. And I purposed in my heart to get sober to show them that you can’t kill me. That I am going to have such a will to live and I’m going to survive to prove to you that your disregard of humanity in this moment and this poor choice of releasing me without providing me the means to heal is actually going to turn me into someone stronger.’

[00:07:58] And he said, ‘This is why I’m a homeless advocate now.’

[00:08:02] I had never heard that story before. And just sitting and hearing his testimony of overcoming, I mean, it really changes your perspective. Because Brittiny (Raine) talks about this a lot through CORE.

[00:08:14] And we’ve had a lot of conversations when it comes to Narcan, and whether or not it’s safe for an organization to use Narcan, or do you allow your employees to have Narcan? And a lot of organizations go and they reach out to public safety, and they reach out to government organizations, and they reach out to institutions very similar to their own, to get feedback.

[00:08:36] And Brittiny (Raine) asked this question in fact at the City Club and said, ‘Have you ever asked a drug user? Have you ever asked someone in recovery? Or have you only asked the people who look like you, think like you, and respond like you, not the people directly influenced by the decisions that you’re making in this organization?’

[00:08:58] I just, I cannot speak enough good about the City Club today, to take a chance on an unknown individual from their circle and elevate them to a position of giving them a platform to speak.

[00:09:14] And boy, did it pay off in dividends. I learned so much, I grew so much, my perceptions changed.

[00:09:22] And another amazing advisor and someone who’s been interviewed before on KEPW—and another Will, in fact, Will Shindler—talks about this wonderful circle of life where the teacher becomes the student to become the teacher again, and then to return to the student to grow even more as a teacher, right? And it’s this wonderful cyclical opportunity. And today we had that.

[00:09:48] So whether you thought you were an expert in harm reduction, you knew homeless services, or you were coming in at a baseline of not understanding anything, the amount of growth that happened just within that one hour? I’m blown away.

[00:10:02] I mean, to put me on a panel is safe right because I know how to read a room and kind of divert my answers to a room, right? I know to mind my Ps and Qs. And yes, I’m passionate, and yes, I like to go a little bit and cause a little bit of trouble. Good trouble, right? The spirit of John Lewis.

[00:10:21] To give a position to someone that they don’t know but just elevate a voice that is like, ‘Hey, I have something to say,’ that’s community. And I think that (so this is where I get really passionate is) because another individual, it was one of the last questions on the panel and they were just really talking about Measure 110 and not understanding it and drugs and drugs and drugs and addiction and addiction.

[00:10:47] And Will (Kramer) ended the City Club by saying, ‘Look, we can talk about drugs and addiction all we want,’ he goes, ‘but there’s a deeper root to this issue. And the deeper root of this issue is that we as a community do not love each other or know each other as a community. Maybe if we knew our neighbors from down the road, maybe if we knew who was in our apartment complex, maybe if we had that peer support, there wouldn’t be this isolation and need for a coping mechanism.’

[00:11:19] And he said, ‘So okay, we can argue and we can attest to what’s right and what’s wrong. But we really need to address the fact that neighbors need to be neighbors and community needs to be community.’

[00:11:31] And what an amazing note to end on, because that’s so true. And to have his vision and leadership and understanding of what it means to be a community member as a Eugene native, I came from that event feeling so empowered and in such need to learn and grow more.

[00:11:51] And it’s tough, right? Because as we’re all organizing and trying to gather information, and we’ve sat in all of these DEI classes, right, and we’ve had all of these trainings on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, what does that mean? How do we enact it? But then you see it actually work in this community where people are like, ‘Yes, it is the right thing to do to take a chance.’ Who knew if someone didn’t show up? Or who knew if this was going to be the right thing?

[00:12:22] But I think that seeing individuals who are willing to take risks and really amplify voices that haven’t been on the typical speaking circuits is how we’re really going to enact change in this community.

[00:12:34] John Q: Sarah Koski at the KEPW Reporters Roundtable discusses the Feb. 1 Springfield City Club program and its panel discussion on Measure 110.

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