I’d like to introduce you to a house, a family and a community, who all need to stay together.Right now there is an incredible shortage of rental housing in Ashland, Oregon and this family was recently given a 60 day notice to vacate, because the owners need to sell the home.
In some ways organizing public community meals for the homeless is a little like being homeless, your presence makes some people feel uncomfortable and eventually you’ll be pressured to move on.
Since May 6th, we’ve served about 400 meals in Railroad Park when we decided to go weekly with our Friday Community Peace Meal. That’s an average of 50 per week in what I like to think of as “The Crock-pot Brigade” as we demonstrate love in action. It’s an all volunteer effort and dozens of volunteers help make it happen.
It’s a spin off of a monthly meal that began in November 2015 when our community came together to provide hot food, warm clothing and other basic necessities during the coldest months of the year. Part homeless outreach, part community building, these meals are preceded by a talking circle facilitated by the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission. An hour before the meal, we form a circle and share our thoughts on ways we can create a more peaceful culture. Something amazing happens when we slow down and listen to each other, friendships form and conversations begin. Every week I get to witness compassion and courage as we connect through words and language.
Over the course of one night in January 2015, volunteers spread out across Jackson County and counted homeless people. They counted 1,358 men, women and children who are homeless in our community. Every year HUD (Housing and Urban Development) requires counties across the nation to count homeless people who are staying in shelters and every two years they require a count of both sheltered and unsheltered people; of course that number is an estimate as it’s believed that the numbers are actually much higher, but it’s an idea of how many people around us are sleeping on the streets.
1,358. Think about that for a minute. Right here, right at your own feet.
WE (Wellness for Everyone) began with a post on Facebook where Amy Reer asked if it would be possible to feed some homeless people, or would the city shut down such an action. Many people responded and it quickly grew into an action where Pioneer Hall was rented for several hours on an afternoon in late November 2015. Dozens of volunteers worked together to prepare food, donate warm clothing and about 60 people were served a hot, nutritious meal.
It might be true that the fastest path out of homelessness is to find yourself diagnosed with stage IV cancer, as my friend Greg’s recent experience is teaching us. Greg is a lot like many people I’ve known who are homeless; he’d been stuck there for years. He picked up odd jobs here and there whenever he could, but nothing that ever amounted to enough to get back on his feet. The jobs that he could get often paid less than minimum wage and involved physical labor. Right around the time Greg was diagnosed, the weather turned and temperatures were dropping below freezing. The Ashland Community Resource Center jumped in and helped him secure housing for the next six months.
KSKQ News Collaborative series on low income housing. Deb Vanpoolen interviews Connie Saldana of Rogue Valley Council of Governments about southern Oregon’s low income housing crisis.
Interview with Charu Colorado, elderly Ashland OR resident who is facing eviction due to increases in rent and limited fixed income.
Interview with Ashland resident Susan Grace about Utah’s Housing First program.
On the KSKQ Morning Show we talk with John Wieczorek, Director of Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland about services for Ashland homeless and low income. We also discuss the upcoming Ashland Sleepout 2015.