Tiny gifts for a giant vision of tiny homes. by Pat Farr

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

Giving gifts to donors to nonprofit organizations is an often-used method to attract attention, but more significantly give the donors a lasting memory of their contribution to the cause. I offered a tiny gift of a hand-turned pen to donors to Square One Villages’ efforts to fill a gap in the housing ladder that allows homeless people to climb out of homelessness and into possible home ownership (go here).

Samples of pens that were given to donors of $250 or more at Square One Villages fundraiser for Emerald Village Eugene.  More than 50 donors gave over $100,000

Samples of pens that were given to donors of $250 or more at Square One Villages fundraiser for Emerald Village Eugene. More than 50 donors gave over $100,000

Homeless people will have a chance to not only live in a home but build equity. Dan Bryant’s vision of housing homeless people and allowing them to build equity is moving very close to reality. On Sunday September 20 a fundraiser was held at Sweet Cheeks Winery to tell people how building “tiny homes” can give men and women a step up in life that has never been offered before. A chance to live in a very dignified home in a very dignified development and, while paying rent, build equity that can be transferred to down payments for other types of housing.

After seeing samples of the quality of the housing and the remarkable return on investment, both in terms of houses built and opportunities where none existed before, more than 50 donors gave a total of more than $100,000 in cash to help fund the Emerald Village Eugene (EVE) housing project.

Tom Bowerman started the evening with a generous donation which shone a light on the path for other donors to follow.

This example of a tiny home shows that they can look dignified and fit into any neighborhood...

This example of a tiny home shows that they can look dignified and fit into any neighborhood…

Over a dozen architects have provided innovative plans to ensure that Emerald Village will be a welcome addition to Eugene’s housing mix. I believe this pilot program will fuel the drive for other such projects not only here in Lane County but throughout the country.

Lane County Opportunities for the New Year. Number Three: coordination of services with other jurisdictions. by Pat Farr

Monday, January 21st, 2013

 

The cities of Eugene and Springfield are in the process of merging their fire departments into a single department.  (click here to see details.)

Reasons for the merger abound:

1.  Eliminating boundaries that could be a hindrance to overlapping fire and medical emergency response.

2.  Standardizing equipment used in the field in order to allow different crews to hook up to each other’s hardware as well as to keep a single inventory of replacement and backup parts.

3.  Streamlining the command structure to reduce administrative overhead.

4.  Making more life-saving services available to more addresses.

The list goes on.  Bottom line:  people of Eugene and Springfield are safer while the money spent on fire and EMT services is optimized.

Compare that with a recent development.  The city of Eugene is embarking on creating a committee on homelessness that is slated to be a standing committee of the City Council.  This committee is overdue and will essentially be a clearing house for needed services.  It will consist of 7-9 members who will represent different segments of the community such as:  public safety; service providers; faith community; business; Human Rights Commission, etc.  It will be good.

It will be good, that is, if it is coordinated with a similar committee that is being formed by Lane County.  A committee required by the  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (which provides Lane County with federal money for housing assistance among other things) which will have an almost identical composition.

If the two committees end up duplicating efforts–or worse, competing against each other for available resources–valuable human service dollars will be wasted and the end result is likely to be compromised.

An opportunity exists for the two committees to either combine with a single charge (set of goals) or to coordinate their efforts in order to compliment the other committee’s work.

Other examples of duplicated committee work exist throughout Lane County.  Non-profit organizations often are working on a particular issue while at the same time a well-meaning  government jurisdiction identifies the same issue and forms a new task force, effectively duplicating the work.  And perhaps doubling the cost.  At other times committees are formed to study a condition that has been previously studied, needlessly replicating the work and expense.

Locally we have established intergovernmental commissions that are intended to consolidate and coordinate efforts.  But we have not always been expert in allowing them to do so.

For instance, we have an intergovernmental Human Services Commission, which consists of elected officials from Lane County, Eugene and Springfield.  Its goal is to effectively distribute available funds to the most effective service providers.  But it is not always unilaterally supported by the represented government bodies.

We have other commissions and committees that consist of multi-jurisdictional elected officials and staff that can be used more effectively to optimize the precious and diminishing resources available.

We also have Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) which provides services to all cities and school boards in the county.  Under the new leadership of its director, Brenda Wilson, LCOG can reach new heights in efficient service.

As we enter the new year, if we also enter a new era of coordination of services, we can find ways to be more efficient and provide higher levels of service without requiring duplicated spending.

Now, that would be new.

North Eugene County Commission discussion at City Club involved talk of the Human Services Commission. by Pat Farr

Monday, April 16th, 2012

 

I had a debate with Rob Handy and Nadia Sindi on Thursday April 12 at a special meeting of the Eugene City Club held at Trinity Methodist Church on Maxwell Road in North Eugene.

The format is not exactly debate:  the other two and I only had about six minutes to ask questions of each other, the rest of the time being spent responding to questions from the mediator or the audience.  Still it was a good opportunity to air some issues.

(I would welcome a Lincoln-Douglas debate format which involves direct discussion and questioning  of one another by the debaters.)

I took time to talk about issues such as public safety, water rights, environment and human services. The others spent some of their time tossing remarks at their competitors.  Nadia, for instance, spent a lot of time talking about ethics and secret meetings while looking at Handy, who spent a lot of time talking about my “ultra-conservative” leanings.

Nadia’s comments seemed to be an accurate reflection of what has been reported often in the media while Handy’s seemed more of a rant, at one point suggesting falsely that I had received contributions from a source that had not contributed to my campaign.  Such is campaigning for some.

One point I wanted to make was that the Human Services Commission is conducting a “Thriving Communities Summit on April 24 at the U of O Ford Alumni Center Ballroom.  Follow this link for more details. It will be a gathering of more than a hundred engaged men and women from the community to see how we can meet the challenge of building a healthy, prosperous, safe and educated Lane County based on our collective strengths and efforts.  My wife Debi Farr and I are among the invited participants.

There are three stated purposes of the Summit:

1.  Explore ways for organizations bo build a thriving community together.

2.  Strategize how to leverage recent community innovations to meet current and future challenges, and,

3.  Learn about successful efforts that have made a difference in the quality of life for many local residents.

Pearl Wolfe, right, a powerful and seasoned advocate for Human Services, gives her input on the Summit's content.

It’s a four-hour round-table that will actively engage the delegates who represent local business, education, government and human services.

When I spoke of my participation in the planning effort, Handy unfortunately disdained it, saying that he had been involved with the Human Services Commission since he took office about three years ago while I had recently become involved in human services “Just in time for the election.”

The audience largely sniggered, most of them knowing about my decades of work with hunger, shelter and education .

I fell into the spirit of the debate for a moment by letting Handy know, it seems for the first time, that Mayor Ruth Bascom first appointed me to the Commission 17 years ago.

You can listen to an hour of the City Club discussion on KLCC tonight (April 16) at 6 pm. You can listen to the audio archive of the discussion here.

For more about the election go here.

 

Bethel Education Foundation Founder Brooke Cottle receives LCOG Outstanding Service Award by Pat Farr

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Sometime in 2009 Brooke Cottle had some energy to spare.  Brooke is a mother of four young children and an active volunteer in their activities in the Bethel School District. She is fully engaged in community affairs, such as the planning and placement of the proposed YMCA in Bethel Park and organizing and planning the Officer Chris Kilcullen Memorial Garden at Willamette High School.  Her days are filled with more activity than most people would contemplate in a month.

But in 2009 she had some extra energy to spare.  She wanted kids in school—all kids—to have enriching experiences in the classroom and in outside activities beyond the regular learning experience.  So she got together with a group of Bethel parents and formed the Bethel Education Foundation. Nothing like it had been done in the community before so they had to start from scratch with new ideas.

Thanks to the support of the incredible Bethel community, they were able to fund over $25,000 worth of grants to Bethel Schools this school year!  The grants were for a wide variety of purposes and will enhance and broaden students’ educational experiences.

The 2nd Annual BEF (Bethel Education Foundation) Staff Talent Show was another hit this year.  You can see videos of all the staff talent acts on our BEF Facebook page. Their BEF Apple Campaign had a successful run in October. Similar to the Children’s Miracle Network program, participating Bethel businesses offered the chance to “buy an apple” and make a $1 donation to the Bethel Education Foundation.  Their plans are greater this year including an inspired “Bethel Trivia Night” in February.

On January 26 all of that extra energy that Brooke has to spare was rewarded by her being nominated for and winning the annual Lane Council of Governments Outstanding Citizen award.  It was presented by Colt Gill, Superintendent of Bethel Schools at the annual LCOG Appreciation Dinner in front of a room full of elected officials from all over Lane County.

Brooke Cottle receives the highly-deserved LCOG Outstanding Citizen Award from Superintendent Colt Gill

Gill announced the award, which was a surprise to Brooke, by telling the audience that she would defer all credit for the work of the Foundation to everyone else and away from herself.  Which she did.  But we all agree that the Foundation and its growing list of grants to the kids of Bethel would not have happened without that extra energy Brooke had to spare.

The award is yours, Brooke.  You earned it!

 

 

 

 

 

Task force on homelessness looks at tactics, longer-range group should be appointed to look at strategies by Pat Farr

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

I am glad to be a part of the work group that is working on homelessness issues.  Serving on the task force and on the planning groups gives me first-hand exposure to the various sides of the issue and allows me to use my years of experience working with homeless kids and adults to help shape the direction of the desired outcomes.

The Council Committee on Homelessness and Youth (CCHY) met over the course of three years.  I was chair, and Councilor Bobby Lee and Mayor Jim Torrey completed the committee.  An updated  “Chronological History of Homeless Efforts and Actions 1947 to Present” was distributed yesterday to the large group of task force members.  There are no less than a dozen references to the work of the Council Committee in the report.

A list of desired outcomes of the short-term task force that will meet perhaps three more times was generated at the January 24 task force meeting:

1.  Raise public awareness about the issue of homelessness and provide a means to disseminate information

2.  Provide community based service hubs and storage sites

3.  Provide expanded shelter options (both emergency and ongoing)

4.  Expand daytime programs (like the one at Lindholm Center )

5.  Provide specialized services to address continuum of needs

6.  Identify opportunities for “wealth generation” among homeless population

It was recognized that all of the above goals are similar to programs that have been initiated with little or no start up cash in Eugene.  Programs such as WomenSpace , Looking Glass , White Bird and FOOD for Lane County originated “around somebody’s kitchen table” to address identified needs.  Each of these programs has developed into a broad-based service organization that is now a private non-profit (501 (c) (3) corporation).

Councilor Chris Pryor pointed out that the six outcomes listed above are all tactics that are part of what should be a larger strategic effort to address homelessness in Eugene on a long-term basis.  With that thought in mind I once again suggested that the long term discussion should center around a Council Committee, such as the CCHY, to determine what can be done to help the men, women and children all around us who need shelter.   With such effort and with little cost perhaps a dozen more entries in the “Chronological History” can be added.

(The Eugene Human Rights Commission has included this suggestion in its work plan.)

 

 

 

 

Chipping away at the homelessness situation in Eugene by Pat Farr

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The Opportunity Eugene Task Force Planning Team of 17 met for two hours on January 19 to establish the desired outcomes of the Task Force.  The full Task Force of around 50 members will meet perhaps four times to develop recommendation to the City Council for addressing the needs and impact for the unhoused in the community.  These are unusually large groups of a size that rarely can accomplish much in a short time.  But with this group I am optimistic that tangible results can be achieved.

(“Unhoused” is the term that has replaced “homeless” in the vocabulary of the working group.)

The draft Desired Outcomes have been determined by the group for presentation to the entire task force at a meeting starting at 9 am on January 24 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

It is agreed that an established infrastructure of services to serve the homeless exists in Eugene.  The Task Force seeks to build upon existing services in creative and innovative ways.  This is my reason for optimism:  not trying to reinvent the wheel, but perhaps putting a new tire on it.

One such way, I hope, will be to provide readily available information about what services exist for the homeless and facilitate ways for those who need to access the services can locate them and use them.  Many people who are experiencing homelessness could have barriers removed by accessing services that currently exist.

Jim Davidson, a task force and planning team member made a statement that rings true with many people, “I am willing to drive them (homeless individuals) to a place they can get help.”  Such volunteers are available and willing to help if they know how it can be done.

Craig Smith, another member of both groups, stated, “There are easy connections that can be made…” Once again suggesting that for some people just knowing where and how to access services that already exist could help tremendously.

For some, their obstacles include things that many of us take for granted:  valid identification or a birth certificate.  For others it may be a place to shower and store their belongings while they look for work.  A central locus for accessing the information could help many who need help but don’t know how or where it is available would demystify what already is being done.

Obviously not all situations are a simple fix, but by providing access to simple fixes we could make larger chronic issues more clear to see and understand and begin to address longer-term needs.

After this task force has finished its work and made its report to City Council it will be necessary for a smaller and more focused committee, such as the Council Committee on Homelessness and Youth was, to meet on a longer term basis to achieve longer term solutions.

Click here to see historic and ongoing efforts surrounding homelessness in Eugene.

 

The new “Opportunity Eugene Community Task Force on Homelessness” might just have a chance of being successful. By Pat Farr

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Noon today signaled the start of the first meeting of “Opportunity Eugene—A Community Task Force on Homelessness.”  It had all of the trappings of just another one of those ad-hoc community groups that begins with acrimony, drags on through seemingly endless extensions of the deadline of the assigned report and finishes up with:  nothing.

Too often the result is nothing tangible that anybody is satisfied with.

As a veteran of a host of such committees and task forces I entered girded for sloppy and frustrating failure.  Such has  been my experience.

But this committee didn’t start out with the usual battle lines being drawn and the participants sitting cross-armed glaring at each other.  Even though the group represented most service organizations, many churches and schools, all of the participants  seemed willing to listen and were not bent on just hearing themselves.

The facilitator of the meeting, Oregon Consensus from Portland State University, represented by Wendy Willis and Laurel Singer, did a good job of making all participants comfortable from the start by seating them in a very uncomfortable broken circle.  Sounds ludicrous, but it worked.  It didn’t seem like the normal circle from the outset.  I for one was intrigued from the get-go.

The group of roughly 40 participants was promptly broken up into small groups of five which is a typical tactic.  But these groups were formed at the outset and nearly all discussion occurred in the small groups.  This tactic ensured that everybody who wanted to talk was able to and the consolidated notes gathered at the end of the 90 minute meeting were fairly concise and meaningful.

The charge of the group includes a series of 6 or so meetings that will make a recommendation to Council.

I sat in a group with Dan Bryant, pastor of First Christian Church; Dr. Shawn Boles, former City Councilor and U of O professor; Ben Cross, pastor of First Baptist Church; Melissa Mona of Egan Warming Centers; and Jim Davidson, a local homeless activist.

It was a varied group of opinionated individuals, but we came up with some good ideas in a short time frame.

After I left the meeting I spent time digesting what I had heard in the small group and afterward and I settled on a reasonable concept that could produce a positive result.

We are not going to find some magical free pot of money.  We are not going to solve the issue of homelessness.  For one thing, some people aren’t interested in changing the way they live.  In Dr Boles words, “some of these folks are wild and wooly and want to live out their lifestyle…”  True words.

Dan Bryant told a story.  On Christmas Eve he arrived at his church and found a man camping in the portal.  The man had “a ton of stuff” and had been ferried to the church and dropped off with his belongings. Among them was a keyboard.  He had no place to store it.  I did not hear more of the man’s story but a point had been made.  The man needed someplace to put his stuff.

Homelessness is caused by many factors, too numerous to list without evoking ire from someone who would say, “What about…?”  So I focused in my thoughts on specific needs of homeless people.

One possible outcome of the series of meetings should be a consolidated “clearing house” of solutions.  A central place where all of the agencies represented have listed their services and means to access them.  A place where churches and agencies and private parties and volunteers can offer solutions that may not solve all of the ills of the homeless but could give some relief on a regular basis to some of the needs brought out by being homeless.  Maybe just a place to store stuff.  Maybe help filling Social Security forms and tapping into earned benefits.  Maybe help to find food.  Maybe even help finding a place to sleep legally.

I’m not holding my breath for a solution to homelessness.  But perhaps helping identify services and benefits that are available can help leverage more volunteer help for those who live among us that really need help.

In years past hunger was a mysterious and doubted need.  FOOD for Lane County, for instance, has done a remarkable job not only of providing food but of elevating the awareness of the entire community that people are really in need of help.  And causing an ever increasing number of people to help in ways they can help by offering easily accomplished ways to help.

By identifying homelessness not as a blight of the lazy and unprincipled, but of men and women and children just like your kids and your parents and your friends who need some assistance in a very real way, we may be able to in some way replicate the type of success FFLC has found and solve homeless problems one step at a time, one case at a time, one pile of stuff at a time.

I’m not suggesting we’re going to solve homelessness.  We’ve put a lot of effort into it and still fall short.

But I am suggesting this committee should continue to meet and with its broad base of input, identify ways that men and women and children can have more of the basic necessities that everybody should be able to expect to have.

 

 

Despite reports to the contrary, volunteering and giving in Lane County is not new. by Pat Farr

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Occupy Eugene has gotten a lot of people talking.  That’s an understatement.  And it’s also good.  The media is paying attention to the camp and to the issues the occupants talk about.  It’s interesting that their initial message was a global one, following the Occupy Wall Street model of using demonstration and resistance to draw attention to “corporate greed.”  That’s a model that grew all over the US and the world to the point that when it came to Eugene and somebody asked the City Manager why this group should be looked at differently to any other in regard to camping laws and land use the response was something to the effect that this was a national movement that deserved special attention.

But it evolved and gained momentum in Eugene, as movements have a tendency to in Eugene, (it likely evolved elsewhere, but we do it so much better here).  It became focused much more on the conditions surrounding homelessness, hunger and other serious human conditions.

It was pointed out that there were homeless people in Eugene.  And some people were hungry.  And for some reason some among the movement thought that those conditions had gone unnoticed and ignored in our community until it was pointed out by demonstrations in the downtown park blocks, Alton Baker Park, Franklin Boulevard, on the University of Oregon Campus and now at the Washington-Jefferson Street Park portion of the Willamette Greenway.

What a shame, and what a slap in the faces of the thousands and thousands and thousands of people who for decades have been giving their time, their money and their hearts to the needy people in our community. Few people in Lane County are ignorant to the fact that we have hungry kids all around us.  Most people have heard that one out of three will access emergency food this year.  Many have given to make sure that there is emergency food to access.

But volunteering and giving in our county goes far beyond hanging food on your mail box twice a year.  Please continue to do that and all the other things you do to help provide basic needs for men and women and children.  But also take a look around you.  As well as yourself, your neighbors have a long history of giving and volunteering and they’re not about to stop doing it.

People volunteer and give everywhere.  From the Bethel Clothes Closet at Bethesda Lutheran Church (and clothing drives at nearly every other church in town) to service groups like Kiwanis and Rotary and Lions to non-profit corporations like FOOD for Lane County and Relief Nursery to the parents and kids who volunteer in schools raising funds and guarding cross walks.  Volunteers are, and have always been, everywhere.  As you read this I’ll wager you can think of a host of times you have personally given time, goods or money to help out.

So doesn’t it bug you, at least a little, to have somebody suggest that they are bringing people’s basic needs that aren’t being met to our attention for the first time?

I became Executive Director of FOOD for Lane County in 2004.  At that time I was stunned by the number of hours that organization alone has been given in volunteer hours.  In the year prior to my arrival over 58,000 hours of volunteer time had been given.  Fifty-eight thousand hours. In just the one organization of many around town and in just one year.

Further research shows that FOOD for Lane County had over 175,000 volunteer hours in the five years prior to that.  And by all accounts in the last eight years the numbers have continued to rise.  And this is just FOOD for Lane County.  You or somebody you work with most likely, statistically, has volunteered there.  And that doesn’t count the Rotary Duck Race volunteers and the Relief Nursery workers and the people who help patients at McKenzie Willamette Hospital.

It’s amazing how generous the people of Lane County have always been.  And it’s a little frustrating for somebody to come along and suggest that you haven’t done anything before.

Read on if you want to see some of the ways you and your neighbors have volunteered at this one agency alone.

 

 

At FOOD for Lane County (as with other agencies) volunteers lend a hand in many areas:

Board of Directors

FOOD for Lane County’s volunteer Board of Directors represents various geographical areas and backgrounds throughout Lane County.

Day Kitchen

Monday through Friday, volunteers gather in the afternoon at the FOOD for Lane County kitchen to prepare food for the Family Dinner Program, repack bulk products, sort and clean donated produce and perform other kitchen tasks as needed.

Family Dinner Program

Volunteers work at FOOD for Lane County’s Dining Room to assist with food preparation in the afternoon and with serving meals and clean up in the evening. The Dining Room serves meals Monday through Thursday.

Food Rescue Express (FREX)

FREX volunteers repackage rescued food for distribution to pantries and meal sites around Lane County. The FREX kitchen operates Monday through Friday evenings and depends on a staff of more than 150 volunteers each week.

Gardens

Volunteers work year-round at FFLC’s three gardens to participate in a variety of activities, including soil preparation, planting, harvesting, composting and greenhouse projects.

Summer Food Program

FOOD for Lane County serves free, nutritious lunches to children during the summer through its Summer Food Program. Volunteers prepare lunches in FFLC’s kitchen and serve lunches to children at sites located throughout Lane County.

Warehouse

Volunteers help with basic warehouse tasks such as cleaning, loading and unloading trucks and vans, sorting donated food and helping with pickups and deliveries.

With so many ways to volunteer around every corner it’s no wonder that people in Lane County have always done it!

Visit FOOD for Lane County

A new YMCA in Bethel Park? by Pat Farr

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

The City of Eugene and the YMCA are working together with west Eugene neighbors on an update for the Bethel Park Master Plan that would include a YMCA.

There will be a town hall meeting on December 8 at Meadowview School on Legacy St. (off Barger Drive) at 6:30 pm.  City staff, elected officials, school officials and YMCA representatives will be there.  The preferred option as stated by respondents to a public survey will be presented, with an opportunity for questions and input.

Bethel Park is a gem in West Eugene adjacent to the school that includes a large children’s playground, full-sized soccer/ball field, a skateboard park, four baseball fields, lots of open space and will eventually have jogging trails and tennis courts.  It’s located between Avalon and Barger on the north and south and bordered by Haviture Way and Legacy on the east and west.

Go to

http://www.eugene-or.gov/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=217&PageID=4618&cached=true&mode=2&userID=2

to see the YMCA siting options and a park master plan.

Testimony on Bascom Village may have brought out lies. Story by Pat Farr

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Last night’s Eugene City Council public hearing lasted almost until this morning.  Thirty seven people signed up for testimony on Bascom Village, but by the time a couple dozen had testified on other issues a few had gone home before their time came.  The testimony was impassioned and by the time I had stayed to talk with a handful of neighbors of the proposed project I found myself getting home at nearly midnight.  Still yesterday but almost today.

A motion was made to allow Mike Reeder, the neighborhood group’s attorney, to combine the time of other testifiers and offer a 40-minute cohesive testimony.  I supported the motion in favor of hearing a coordinated presentation.  The Council voted 4-4 (Ortiz, Taylor, Zelenka and Brown in opposition) with Mayor Piercy splitting the vote and killing the motion.

So instead we heard three-minute testimonies from a long line of speakers.  Which was good, but I believe a presentation that placed all of the concerns about building the project in a sequenced delivery would have given a clearer and more understandable set of information.  Thirty seven three-minute talks only add up to 111 minutes, but with the lag time as presenters step to the microphone it ends up taking much longer.  It was not the longest public hearing I’ve attended in my nine years as a Councilor, and each presenter made a worthwhile presentation.

The testimony was grouped mainly into the six areas plus two that I listed in the previous post, no real surprises, but it was an opportunity for the entire Council to see and hear the opponents and supporters face to face.

What is very disconcerting is an allegation by one Councilor, Mike Clark, that a 4J School District official and a former 4J School Board member lied in their presentation of school facts.  The use of the word, “lie” is serious and must be taken with great gravity.  If they knowingly lied, that’s a problem.  If they didn’t lie, that’s a different problem.  The facts will be brought forward in the coming days.

The Council will act on the proposal Monday November 28.