Deciding what to do with the homeless people of any city is a difficult undertaking. Citizens would like to see the homeless off the streets and yet they aren’t definite on an approach to make that happen. Eugene has built a couple of villages after a homeless program founded in Portland, Oregon that helps get some homeless men and women off the streets.
Nine months ago the project began. Donated and purchased building materials built the rustic “Conestoga” type huts and the 20 bungalows, along with a gatehouse, kitchen, tarp-covered dining facility, bathhouse with toilets, a laundry facility and shower room. A yurt creates the perfect meeting area, with a wood pellet stove to take the chill off during the colder months and Wi-Fi capabilities for access to resources for council and community meetings. The whole village cost about $100,000, one of the most cost-effective ways to deal with housing those on the streets. This is the cheapest and most resourceful approaches to housing the homeless in the nation.
Since the village has been built and is housing people, it has drawn nationwide interest. Visitors from New York, Dallas, Santa Cruz, Yreka and Chico California have attended a meeting in Eugene. They were given a tour through the village.
Opportunity Village opened last year. The village is supported by a nonprofit organization and is overseen by a board of directors.
Thirty-three people are residing at the village. Each cottage is 60 to 80 square feet. The village is on city-owned property and is on North Garfield Street near Roosevelt.
Since Opportunity Village is operated by those who reside there, the rules are strictly enforced. Police have had to answer calls to the site a few times, mainly to handle drunken or disruptive people, although they state the village has far less crime and problems than was expected.
The village opened their gates in the latter part of August. Since then, 24 residents have left. Fourteen of the 24 voluntarily left to stay with relatives or to move into apartments. A total of 10 residents were expelled by the village council for disobeying rules.
Some of the homeless people residing at the village have a difficult time adjusting to living with others again. Some may be battling drug and alcohol addictions and some may have mental health issues that make it difficult to make the adjustment back into a society-driven residence.
People who move into the village have to sign an agreement to follow the village rules. Future residents are screened during this process as well. The board of directors is made up of 12 members from outside resources and a group of seven members are chosen every two months to oversee rules and everyday affairs out of the residents in the village.
Residents pay $30 per month to cover utilities and to live in the village that spreads over an acre. The homes are unheated so the residents say it’s a lot like camping.
Residents are not allowed to drink, although some have chosen to drink off the site and return home intoxicated. Food and other items have gone missing and arguments ensue. It’s all a part of living communally.
Another village is in the making. The name Emerald Village Eugene has been selected but not set in stone as of yet. The new village would provide another 15 houses. The new village would give homeless people a longer-term housing option out of those who have a little income but still cannot afford an apartment.
The lot for the village is leased to the program for $1 per year. The lease draws to an end in October, although the board of directors is hoping to get another year for the site. The program allows homeless residents of Eugene a more permanent place to stay, rather than setting up tents around the city night after night.
Residents of the village have come up with a plan to help new residents adjust to the village life. Each veteran would spend two weeks with the new arrivals to help them understand how things operate.