Stop by the lemonade stand from 12:30-2:30 in June to show your support for Hospitality Village.
- When: June 12 , June 19, June 26
- Where: Tugman Park
Tiny houses, big hopes
By Randi Bjornstad, The Register-Guard
June 5, 2016
For nearly three years, the large, tree-shaded parking lot at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Eugene has been home to a cluster of 6-foot-by-9-foot Conestoga huts occupied by a succession of otherwise homeless people.
The experiment, allowed by the city of Eugene under the umbrella of St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County’s overnight parking program, has been so successful for both the residents of the huts and the churchgoers that the congregation is planning an upgrade they’ll call Hospitality Village.
The plan is to replace the basic, unheated and unlighted Conestoga shelters with 12-foot-by-8-foot tiny houses with heat, light and enough headroom for even their taller occupants to stand up inside.
They will use donations of money and materials to construct the structures, estimated to cost somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 each.
“I believe Resurrection was the first church to have the Conestoga huts,” said Brent Was, rector at the south Eugene church.
“This congregation has been participating in homeless programs for 20 years — the philosophy is that the way to change the world for the better is through relationships.”
The benefit goes both ways, Was and his wife, Windy Dayton, agree. The couple have been at Resurrection Episcopal for four years and along with their members have made homeless issues an integral part of their ministry, “but not anything preachy,” Was said.
“We know that the transition from being homeless is difficult, so we have upgraded the advocacy part of our relationship with our Conestoga residents,” Dayton said.
“Many people aren’t on a first-name basis with people who aren’t like them, so we have paired each of our residents with a member of the congregation to be a friend and advocate as they try to improve their situations.”
A social worker from White Bird Clinic helps the residents and the advocate for each Conestoga household develop a case management plan, which has resulted in some happy outcomes, she said.
“We had one young man who struggled mightily to change his life, and he made great progress, moved on to permanent housing, and he’s off to the university in the fall,” Dayton said.
Not everyone has been that successful, Was acknowledged, “and it has happened that people were not ready or able to make changes and went back into homelessness.”
But both emphasized that the benefits have accrued not only for the residents of the huts but also for the congregation.
“Having the people here has given the church a lot more security,” Dayton said. “People would have parties on the grounds when no one was around, and we would find used needles lying around. Sometimes, we also found purses that had been stolen and then emptied out and left in the parking lot.”
Police calls to the property used to be frequent, “but since the huts have been here, I think the police have only been here once,” Was said. “It’s been much better for the neighborhood.”
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