St. Vincent’s next big thing: a shelter for homeless high school students

mapBy Mohammed Alkhadher, The Register-Guard – June 26, 2016

In what’s believed to be the first ever such project attempted in Oregon, St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County plans to convert a former church on Willamette Street into housing for homeless youth.

The nonprofit agency has an option to purchase the vacant church, which is across the street from the U.S. post office branch in south Eugene, for $575,000, and wants to renovate it to house 15 to 20 homeless high-schoolers from the Eugene and Bethel school districts.

“We have four months to put together the financing and do the program planning,” said St. Vincent de Paul spokesman Paul Neville, referring to the agency’s option-to-buy deadline. “In other words, we have four months to make a mad scramble.”

If funding is obtained, the agency would like to have the church refurbished and ready for its first residents by fall 2017.

The idea for the housing project was proposed by the Council of South Eugene Neighborhoods, which consists of the Friendly, Southeast, Southwest Hills and Amazon neighborhood associations.

The council favored the former Cascade Presbyterian Church building because of its proximity to transit lines and to South Eugene High School, neighborhood leader Heather Sielicki said.

The project defies usual NIMBY — Not In My Back Yard — stereotypes that are often associated with efforts to locate housing facilities for low-income or homeless people.

“It’s a first-time experience for me, as both a nonprofit worker and as a former journalist,” said Neville. “I’ve never seen this, and it’s a wonderful and heartening thing to experience.”

Sielicki said the council of neighborhood associations is worried that homelessness in Eugene has reached crisis levels. “It’s something that we all need to get together to address,” she said.

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