Community Supported Shelters
A Tangible Solution to one of Eugene’s most daunting problems
There is a misconception in our society about the homeless. We have this pre-contrived notion that those living on the street had their chance at a normal life; and they messed it up through drugs, alcohol, or mental illness. During these harsh economic times, how many people do you know that are a month away from homelessness? Possibly hard working citizens who are laid off due to industry cut backs, closings, and bankruptcy? The harsh reality is that many of us are living beyond our means, something that is certainly true if we look at our society as a whole. How sustainable is the way we are currently living? This is a question Eric de Buhr and Fay Carter, Founders of Community Supported Shelters, have set out to answer and used as a driving force in their work. These local residents of Eugene are pushing for a new community model of living, one that before today did not exist.
Currently in Eugene, one of the most common topics of conversation is the increasing rate of unemployment, and the daunting fear of homelessness that comes along with it. The National Law Center on Homelessness recently stated that approximately 3,500 people are currently homeless in Lane County, and the numbers are steadily increasing. Michael Carrigan, is a community organizer at the Community Alliance of Lane County. “The numbers are alarming,” Carrigan says. “The number of people who are living on the streets indicates a very serious problem that needs to be dealt with by the local government. We feel that housing is a human right that every person is entitled to. It’s part of that effort that everybody can be housed in Lane County” (Poust).
As this issue grows, the citizens of Eugene are constantly looking for ways to find a solution. Erik de Buhr and his wife Fay have started a local Eugene movement dedicated to creating sustainable shelters for those in need. The project was built on 3 principles.
1. Utilize wasted materials.
2. Harness the energy of the group
3. Include the new resident in some part of the construction process.
Their goal is to eventually build small, sustainable living communities that are made up of eco friendly huts comprised of recycled materials. These huts would provide shelter for people who need a roof over their heads and a lock to protect their belongings. These communities would consist of a group of individuals who have the desire to work together in an effort to create a living environment that is beneficial for everyone. They would grow their own food and help each other with things like child support and transportation. This community model creates an environment of inter-dependence, support, and a place where people can nurture their relationships with those around them.
Carter and de Buhr have received an overwhelming amount of community support and donations from local organizations like Opportunity Village Eugene and St. Vincent DePaul. Countless news stations have run stories about their efforts, helping to keep their project in the public eye. Sheree Walters, owner of the Cornbread Café, hosted a silent auction and spaghetti dinner to raise funds for Community Supported Shelters. “I’ve always wanted to do whatever I can to help others, so when I heard about this project I wanted to get involved immediately,” Walters said. She knows what it feels like to start small because her successful restaurant was a small food cart not too long ago. The community support isn’t a surprise to Fay Carter, “People see that there’s actually something happening in the community. There is movement happening, structures are going up, people are getting off the streets. So when people see that something is really happening people want to be a part of it, and they want to give their support.”
This project has had a profound positive impact on the community. They have built fifteen huts in the past three and a half years. The change de Buhr and Carter see in the new residents lives has been a rewarding experience for them. They have just finished building their first Icosa hut, a round wooden structure built for Eileen Ordelt and her two sons. The family was recently living in an abandoned bus. “Eileen has completely changed her ways. She now has a home for her family, a stable job, and a community of people who want to support her and her kids,” Carter says. “Having a stable place really helps people to find themselves. In our society there aren’t enough grounded people, and I think it is because we are so disconnected and isolated.”
Despite the momentum this project has picked up, de Buhr and Carter are faced with the issue of not having enough tools to fuel the work parties. Volunteers show up excited and ready to help, only to be forced to stand around and wait for their turn with tools. The money they hope to raise with the help of Kickstarter will go to fund a ‘Community Tool Box’, which they can bring to work sites.
It will include:
- A first aid kit
- 10 pairs of knee pads
- 20 pairs of work gloves
- 10 safety glasses
- 10 ear protectors
- 3 staple guns
- 3 hand saws
- 2 large and small shovels
- 5 flat crow bar
- 3 tin snips
- 3 impact drivers
- 1 5,000 pound wench
- 1 Battery operated circular saw
- 150 pounds of bulk beans and rice for work party meals
- 1 hot/cold water portable dispenser
The toolbox will allow the parties to be more organized and work more efficiently. With the amount of support that is turning out from the community, de Buhr and Carter want to make sure every worker that comes to help feels taken care of.
There are a lot of social ills that we see every single day, but there is an equal amount of individuals who want to fix these problems. de Buhr and Carter are giving the Eugene community a tangible solution to one of the city’s biggest problems. Despite all the media and community attention they have received, they are still lacking the funds they need to kick start their future projects. The community toolbox will ensure the growth of this grassroots movement to stop homelessness, but they need your help!
Poust, Nick. “Homeless Count Coming Jan. 30.” EugeneWeekly.com. Eugene Weekly, 24 Jan 2013. Web. 3 Feb 2013. <http://www.eugeneweekly.com/article/homeless-count-coming-jan-30>.