CREATIVE APPROACHES TO SERVING HOMELESS PEOPLE
Our community is proud of so many programs, approaches and resources developed by grassroots groups, private non-profits and government departments, often working in tandem, as listed alphabetically below:
COMMUNITY POLICING Eugene Police Department (EPD) officers are often the first City staff that contact homeless individuals. Each carries referral information on housing, food, and other social services. EPD funds the CAHOOTs vans through a partnership with Whitebird Clinic. CAHOOTS offers mental health, substance abuse and homelessness related services when police intervention is not necessary. EPD has been involved in partnerships with Community Supported Shelters, helping to create the Opportunity Village, and involved in the creation and maintenance of several city sanctioned rest stops. Officers provide outreach for other groups (such as the Willamette Riverkeeper) to ensure that volunteers can safely clean up trash and other debris left behind on our riverbanks by homeless campers. Each EPD officer receives 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training, which includes a tour and presentation by the Eugene Mission for better understanding of their services. Lastly, EPD officers encounter homeless in our community as residents, victims, witnesses, suspects, and patients needing medical care. They are charged with treating these vulnerable individuals with dignity, as they protect, serve, and care for their needs. In April, 2016, EPD’s Community Outreach and Response Team was launched, in cooperation with Whitebird Clinic, the CAHOOTS team and Lane County Behavioral Health, with a goal of helping connect chronically homeless people in housing with resources–especially those who they most frequently encounter.
COMMUNITY SUPPORTED SHELTERS (C.S.S.) CONESTOGA HUTS C.S.S. runs two programs: building Conestoga huts for host sites, and running 20-spot “safe spot communities” discussed shortly. The huts are a huge improvement over tent camping, complete with solid walls and lockable front doors, at far less cost than conventional construction. (Full disclosure: I serve on the board of Community Supported Shelters.)
CONTINUUM OF CARE (COC) The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) for Lane County weaves all participating social services together for mutual reinforcement, increased efficiency and disciplined data tracking through the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
CRISIS ASSISTANCE HELPING OUT ON THE STREETS (CAHOOTS) CAHOOTS provides mobile crisis intervention within the city limits of Eugene, (24/7 as of January 2017) dispatched through the Eugene police-fire-ambulance communications center, and within the Springfield urban growth boundary, dispatched through the Springfield non-emergency number. Each team consists of a medic (either a nurse or an EMT) & a crisis worker (who has at least several years of experience in the mental health field). CAHOOTS provides immediate stabilization in case of urgent medical need or psychological crisis, assessment, information, referral, advocacy & (in some cases) transportation to the next step in treatment. Many, but not all, of our clients are homeless.
EGAN WARMING CENTER The Egan Warming Center is a coalition of community members representing service providers, nonprofits, faith and social activists’ communities and local government who have come together since 2008 to ensure that homeless people have shelter during extreme cold weather. Named in honor of Major Thomas Egan, a kindly gentleman who froze to death during a cold spell in 2008, the Warming Center mission is simple: to ensure that homeless people in Lane County have a place to sleep indoors when temperatures drop to 30 degrees or below between November 15th and March 31st. St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County serves as the primary agency responsible for implementing the operation of the Warming Center and building a sustainable model for the long term. For more information about joining this effort, contact us here.
HOST CAMPS Back in 1998, Eugene adopted an Overnight Parking Program (OPP) which allowed homeless individuals or families to stay in their cars on private property. Thanks to local advocates we’ve supplanted the use of cars with the use of Conestoga huts and micro-housing where possible. These provide better shelter and are more appealing for campers, hosts and neighbors. Our most common hosts are houses of worship, which provide space for up to 6 huts or micro-houses in their parking lots. St. Vincent de Paul screens potential long term campers ahead of time to ensure a good match. Click here for a pamphlet on Host Camping.
HOUSE-TO-SINGLE ROOM OCCUPANCY (SRO) CONVERSION Eugene has a shortage of Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) housing. One way to quickly create more is to convert conventional housing into an SRO facility — a cross between a group home and a conventional rooming house, tailored to meet the needs of a managing organization and selected tenants, such as veterans, refugees, or people living with mental illness. Tenants rent individual rooms and have access to shared bathrooms, kitchens, and other living spaces. SROs are generally more affordable, and they have the added benefit of allowing clients to build up good rental histories, so that they can more easily rent apartments in the future.
HOUSING OUR VETERANS (HOV) provides affordable housing in a supportive community to assist these men and women get back on their feet and lead productive lives. We provide a hand up to get vets moving in the right direction on their new mission back home. Each participant must adhere to a no tolerance drug policy. Lorie’s organization now houses 47 residents in six rental properties. Housing our Veterans pays residents’ first month (or more) of rent and assists them in finding employment and accessing the veterans’ benefits they have earned. Housing Our Veterans also provides furnishings, beds, dressers, bedding, and kitchen goods—everything needed to maintain everyday life.
MEDICAL RESPITE ShelterCare’s 30-Day Homeless Medical Respite Program and the six-month Extended Medical Respite Program, in partnership with Peace Health and Trillium Health Care services, offer stable housing, the support of a community health worker and long-term planning assistance for larger life issues. Such services should help to reduce recovery times and prevent costly re-hospitalization while helping program participants regain stability and find permanent housing.
MICRO-HOUSING builds tiny houses to provide affordable housing for those of modest means. They can be placed individually (such as one in a church lot) or in larger groups (such as the villages described below under Square One Villages).
POLK STREET APARTMENTS An 11-unit apartment complex for young adults aging out of foster care. These resilient youth often face daunting barriers to finding housing: lack of family support, cosigners, rental history, or credit score. But thanks to a unique collaborative between the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO), Looking Glass, and the City of Eugene, our community now has its first apartments with supportive services designed just for youth aging out of care. NEDCO is partnering closely with the Looking Glass Independent Living Program (ILP) that provides life skills coaching for youth living in the apartments.
POVERTY AND HOMELESSNESS BOARD (PHB) The Poverty and Homelessness Board (PHB) provides advice to the Board of County Commissioners and the intergovernmental Human Services Commission with the goal of reducing and preventing poverty and homelessness in Lane County. A subcommittee focuses exclusively on homeless veterans.
SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL (SVDP) is Lane County’s largest nonprofit human services organization, helping over 84,000 people annually. We accomplish our mission in six core areas: Affordable Housing, Emergency Services, Homeless Services, Recycling Programs, Retail Thrift Stores, and Self-Sufficiency Services. SVDP manages the host camp, First Place and Service Station programs for the homeless. SVDP does such an extraordinary amount of good work we can’t fit it in here! Visit their website for more details.
SAFE SPOT COMMUNITIES These projects, technically called “rest-stops,” are an initiative of the City of Eugene, OR to provide safe and legal places for individuals and couples to sleep at night. Any non-profit organization involved in providing basic shelter needs is able to submit proposals to the City to manage a ‘rest-stop.’ Currently, the Nightingale Collective runs one, while Community Supported Shelters manages another four rest-stops, better known as Safe Spot Communities. CSS communities have several features that provide very basic, but livable transitional environments (10 month maximum stay) for people without other shelter options. These include (1) rules that provide a system of support to its residents, (2) porta-potties, (3) trash/recycling service, (4) a source of drinkable water, (5) a fire pit, (6) heated, covered space for common use and meetings, (7) platforms for tents with covers for the winter months, or Conestoga huts (8) bi-weekly check-in meetings, (9) a high security fence, complete with shared gate-guard duty for residents, and (10) an environment that introduces positive peer support into peoples’ lives. Ordinances related to rest stops/ safe spots can be found at this link.
(Full disclosure: I serve on the board of Community Supported Shelters.)
SHELTERCARE runs a variety of extraordinary programs including emergency family housing, homelessness prevention assistance, long-term housing for people with traumatic brain injuries, and shelter for families with psychiatric disabilities.
SPONSORS provides transitional housing and employment opportunities to people who are released from Oregon prisons and jail in Lane County, Oregon. Since 1973, Sponsors has been the national model of evidence-based reentry services. Sponsors employs recognized best practices to help the formerly incarcerated stay out of prison for good. The program is based upon the belief that “People can and do change, and that a strategic intervention at the appropriate time can serve as a catalyst in that change.”
SQUARE ONE VILLAGES Square One Villages include Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE) and Emerald Village Eugene (EVE), both groundbreaking self-managed micro-housing villages, with plans for more to come.
THE OAKS HACSA and Sponsors are working together to create an affordable housing project at 1420 and 1430 Oak Patch Road for people with criminal histories who are working and stable or on disability.
VETERANS HOUSING PROJECT (VHP) acquires and rehabilitates low-cost, distressed properties into affordable rental housing for military veterans and their families who are transitioning back to civilian life, tapping into local volunteer labor and generous contributions of building materials.
If you’d like more insights into micro-shelters in Portland and Eugene, check out this short documentary on the subject: