Michelle’s Corner 11.23.21
This year the ShelterCare Board of Directors adopted a new vision statement: Inspiring all to achieve their greatest level of independence and resilience.
Much (needed) attention has been given to the need of emergency shelter for the unhoused individuals and families in our community. Speaking from the perspective of one of the social service agencies that is working directly with our unhoused neighbors, hearing that the business community wants to be part of the solution is great news as the pandemic has exacerbated what was already a challenge.
Emergency or temporary shelter is absolutely essential for the basic survival of so many people, especially during this time when existing programs such as The Eugene Mission or Dusk to Dawn have been faced with the heart-wrenching need to limit vacancy due to COVID policies. The cities and county have had to be creative in establishing guidelines for safe temporary “camping” sites (I use the word “camping” but let’s be clear–this is not a recreational fun vacation) and are now opening official Safe Sleep Sites. Conestoga huts, tiny houses, and other temporary dwellings are being set up by partner agencies and churches.
Is it enough? No. It’s not, but I’m not sure if the general public is aware of how big a lift this has been, because these solutions aren’t just about shelter…it’s about helping people get out of the cold and onto a trajectory so that they can continue to heal, grow and get to the next level of independence. Our community isn’t “warehousing” people. We’re inspiring them to achieve resilience.
ShelterCare programs do include some activities around homeless prevention such as our Rent Assistance program that has geared up to assist the county in turning out several million in COVID Rent Relief dollars in this past year. ShelterCare also has a team that works with newly unhoused people to find unique solutions quickly, which might include help in transportation to family members outside the Eugene/Springfield area, fixing a car that can take them to work, or navigating other resources that will make them independent. Learn more about our REDS Team here.
Although the above is important, the main niche of ShelterCare in addressing the housing crisis is mostly called “Permanent Supportive Housing.” This is the final step toward that vision I referred to, getting people to their greatest level of independence and resilience. While emergency shelter is absolutely vital, Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) is the goal. Participants in these programs pay 30% of their income for their rent, have a case manager who helps them with the skills needed to meet lease requirements, guides them through processes to stay housed, which might include access to physical or behavioral healthcare, education, employment or addiction services.
Many of our PSH participants are all over the community, living their lives, paying their bills, and reaching their full potential. They’re your neighbors, perhaps making the pizza you’re picking up for dinner, or pumping your gas. They have families and dreams.
I applaud the attention and support given to the emergency shelter issue. It’s needed and will take a village to address.
But I strongly urge you to also support the long-term vision of ShelterCare. Our two biggest barriers to success are finding affordable housing units for our participants, and paying our staff what they are worth as costs of living increase but donations and grants…don’t. If you’d like to discuss how you can help or to learn more about ShelterCare, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s do this. Together.