With the elections coming up in June for officers of Consumer Council, I thought I would give an overview of this past year. Not only have our numbers greatly improved, but it really seems that consumers have been taking an interest in the meetings and allowing their voices to be heard.
Throughout this last year we have had several social events, including a Consumer Arts & Crafts Fair. We also had several potlucks during the holiday seasons, and even a picnic-themed social for ShelterCare’s Open House event. Some of the consumers volunteered to make picnic-themed decorations such as paper ants, and also decorated vases with flowers in them. As consumers went to different tables to learn about the programs of ShelterCare, they picked up items for their picnic: sandwiches, salads, baked beans, drinks, and more. This was a big hit.
Last December, I also spoke at the Kaiser Permanente/PeaceHealth Press Conference where the news about a $590,000 grant was announced for ShelterCare’s emergency housing for unhoused individuals. It was a great experience to see so many people and organizations come together to discuss the importance of housing, and to learn about the great things that ShelterCare plans on doing with the funds.
Last December, the council was also involved in writing a letter to the editor of the Register-Guard about Measure 101, which aimed to preserve the Oregon Health Plan for low income people. We are thankful to say this measure passed!
In February, I was pleased to be a part of the Oregon Housing Alliance that went to Salem. Thanks to our joined efforts with many other community members, and speaking to legislators, we were able to pass Bill HB 4007, which helped increase the document recording fee from $20 to $60. Not only does that money go to prevent homelessness, but one in four dollars will also serve veterans. It also creates a first-time home buyer savings account.
In April we were pleased to have Mayor Lucy Vinis at our Consumer Council meeting. She answered many consumers’ questions about the issues around housing and homelessness in Lane County, and I think it helped everyone feel more optimistic about the community we live in.
It really felt great being part of May’s Art Gives Hope benefit. The positive feedback from the video I created helped me build more confidence, and show my personal support for ShelterCare for all they have done for me.
On a personal side, by being part of Consumer Council and this experience as president, I have been able to step outside my comfort zone and join the LEAGUE team. This is a subcommittee of the Lane County Poverty and Homeless Board. It consists of 100% homeless or previously unhoused individuals. This group started in January of this year. We are still in the beginning stages, but have already had some great discussions on what we can do to help the unhoused. Such as issues of bathrooms, showers, safe storage for medications, and much more.
Something new for me is that in the past I never considered my future. I just survived each day as best I could. Now for the first time in a very long time I have been visualizing what my future may look like. I am hoping to be reelected as president of Consumer Council for my final term. This experience will help me to continue to grow. I also plan to look into the peer support training sometime within this next year. I feel like that is where my heart is leading me. There are so many individuals who just need a little encouragement and hope. I myself understand homelessness, addiction, domestic violence, mental illness, health issues, legal issues and evictions. I am also even considering after all these years, starting the process of paying off old fines to get my drivers license back.
I just want to say that to an outsider who may not understand behavioral health issues, that these fun socializing events is what first drew me in a few years ago to become a part of consumer council. When I first started being a part of it I had issues such as addiction and other behavioral health issues. It’s because of Shelter Care and their programs, including socializing events, that have helped me to become who I am today. I am enjoying sobriety. I am also feeling good about my self. I feel like I have become an important part in society. For that I will always be thankful.