Giving Veterans a Home. by Pat Farr

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

A new house for returning Veterans.

Volunteers and Veterans gather in front of Veterans House for its dedication

St. Vincent DePaul of Lane County and Bethel School District teamed with a host of volunteers and veterans to refurbish, remodel and repurpose this house in west Eugene to serve as a home for the household of a veteran returning from active duty.  Here.

School Board Chair Debi Farr, Superintendent Chris Parra and Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis at the dedication of Bethel Schools and St. Vincent DePaul Veterans House in Bethel

This house becomes a part of the tremendous effort in Lane County to house homeless veterans.  Operation 365 in 2015/6 housed over 400 veterans’ families in a single year and has housed over 500 more since.  Here.

Henry Farr’s memorial flag flies on the lawn of Veteran House 10 in Bethel. Henry served in the Royal Navy

 

Brenda Wilson, Pete Kerns and Jon Ruiz at the VetHouse dedication on April 4 2019

Operation Welcome Home will inspire housing for homeless veterans. by Pat Farr

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Welcome Home Oregon Veterans.

The signed declaration committing to seeking an end to veterans homelessness in Oregon

Here in Lane County we are redoubling our efforts to provide housing and services to homeless veterans. I’m proud to have represented our county and cities at Operation Welcome Home’s launch last Thursday. As usual, Lise Stuart and our Veterans Team are looking far into the future to find innovative ways to serve our military heroes today… Read more here.

Operation Welcome Home centers the goal of ending veterans’ homelessness and uses Lane County’s and national best practices and clear goalposts to advance that goal.

Remembering my friend and fellow soldier Tom Egan. By Pat Farr

Sunday, December 18th, 2016
I took this photo of Tom Egan teaching soldiers on the grenade course at Camp Rilea, Oregon

I took this photo of Tom Egan teaching soldiers on the grenade course at Camp Rilea, Oregon

Tom Egan was a cavalry officer.

 

I served with Lieutenant Egan starting in 1977 in the 162nd Infantry Brigade, 2nd regiment, alpha company.  At the time, not too long after our troops had returned from Vietnam, strength in the unit was low and Tom and I were two of only three commissioned officers  in the company.  The third was Captain Tony O’Connor.  The three of us spent a great deal of time together, along with another commander, Captain Ray Byrne.  (This article was reprinted in the Register Guard on Christmas Day, 2016, titled:  Unforgotten Soldier, memory of Tom Egan moves community to act)

In November 2016 I traveled to Washington DC along with Mayor Kitty Piercy and our guests Terry McDonald and Jon Ruiz to receive recognition and celebrate Michelle Obama’s challenge to house homeless veterans.  Locally operation 365 housed 404 homeless veterans during 2015.

Ours was a great effort, but far too late to help my friend Tom Egan, who died a few feet from where I am standing, homeless, freezing cold–suffering from alcoholism and its accompanying despair.

After spending time in the White House being congratulated for Operation 365  in Lane County I spent the next day with retired Colonel Tony O’Connor.  We decided, and its true, that celebration of efforts is hollow—eggshell thin—as long as a single person, veteran or other, is on the street while the rest of us enjoy what every man woman and child should have—a warm and secure place to sleep.

That is why I am dedicating the next five years of my public service to funding, locating and building at least 600 new units of housing—permanent apartments, tiny houses, single room occupancy units—that are dedicated to people suffering from behavioral health disorders—substance abuse, mental illness, PTSD.  These supportive housing units will not only come with a safe, secure, sanitary place to live but with wrap-around case work and care.  It will be hard to do, and it will require a monumental coordinated effort of government, nonprofit and private citizens and organizations.

We will call it Operation 600 (see story here).  And it will be dedicated and designed to prevent tragic endings such as the one Tom Egan suffered right here in this place.

The idea came from a breakout session at the Lane County Poverty and Homelessness Board’s annual retreat in October.  Kitty Piercy, Steve Manella, Jacob Fox, Michael Kinnison and I were brainstorming ideas for the board’s aggressive strategic plan which includes adding a large number of supportive housing units, and Kitty said, “Operation 365 rang a bell with a lot of people, how about Operation 600?”  We all grabbed the idea.

And Operation 600 has begun.  A project for 60 studios on Lane County property next to the Behavioral Health Center on MLK Blvd has received commissioners’ support and is in the artist conceptual stage…another project with up to 60 supportive housing units for single moms and their children is being discussed and supported, also on Lane County property.  The Oaks, a joint effort of Sponsors and the Housing and Community Services Agency (HACSA) in west Eugene, is nearing completion.  Last month we opened HACSA’s  second phase of Bascom Village which along with St. Vincent DePaul’s first phase now houses hundreds of  men, women and children.

Square One Villages, St. Vincent DePaul, HACSA, ShelterCare, are all in the process of adding permanent supportive housing.  Eugene Mission is a powerful partner in the efforts.

Lane County is engaged, Eugene is engaged, Springfield is engaged…Cottage Grove, Oakridge, Creswell, Junction City, Florence—we will all be engaged.  And it is happening.

Tom Egan was a brilliant man and will never know the impact he has had.  But his friends who are engaged in making sure he will be memorialized here will always remember.

As we reminisced about Tom Egan, Colonel O’Connor reminded me of Tom’s humor.  His engaging manner was popular with his soldiers and his friends alike.  While sitting around the tactical operation center during bivouac training Tom would lull us to sleep with laughter.

He had an amazing sense of humor and could deliver extemporaneous monologue on almost any topic.  His renditions of his role model, Teddy Roosevelt—who he was the spitting image of—left us all in stitches.

He taught soldiers at Fort Bliss Texas, and one of his favorite classes was in the use of the M67 fragmentation hand grenade.  He’d hold one up and say, “Meet Mr. hand grenade.”  Then he’d pull the pin.  “Without the pin, Mr. Hand Grenade is not your friend…”  He captured the class’s attention.

His puns were classic, such as, “If lawyers are disbarred for misconduct, are cowboys de-ranged?  Are librarians dis-carded?”

Captain Ray Byrne is now retired General Ray Byrne.  Ray shared a few words, “He was a good reliable friend and a good soldier.  He enjoyed being a soldier and a scholar and serving his country.  Alcohol can get the best of men and every day can be a struggle, which Tom unfortunately lost. Everyone who knew him misses his quick wit, jokes and toasts.  I remember him as never being down or discouraged.”

Now let us all remember Tom Egan’s life with a smile and his death with a promise.

Veteran phot

Housing homeless veterans local efforts achieving results. by Pat Farr

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

 

A powerful coordinated effort between public, private and non-profit organizations is on target for achieving our goal of housing 365 homeless veterans by the end of this year.

Mayor Kitty Piercy and I are listening to Anne Williams from St. Vincent dePaul at our kickoff event last year for Operation 365...housing homeless veterans

Mayor Kitty Piercy and I are listening to Anne Williams from St. Vincent dePaul at our kickoff event last November for Operation 365…housing homeless veterans

We are making use of funding from all three sources and we are demonstrating that, “Housing homeless veterans has benefits as well as costs.  Some benefits are economic, because veterans are less likely to end up in jails, hospital emergency rooms or morgues, and stand a better chance of being productive citizens.

“Other benefits are less langible, such as the reduction in the sense of shame Americans should feel about every homeless veteran who wants help but can’t get it.”  Editorial, Register-Guard September 5, 2015 (full text here).

In addition to Kitty Piercy and my efforts toward first lady Michelle Obama’s Mayor’s Challenge mentioned in the editorial, a debt of gratitude is owed to Lane County’s Poverty and Homelessness Board Veterans’ Housing Subcommittee comprised of PHB chair Pat Walsh, Pearl Wolfe, Lane County; Anne Williams, St. Vincent dePaul; Cindy Leming, Veterans Administration; Tod Schneider, city of Eugene; Tim Engle, Supportive Services for Veterans’ Families; Jacob Fox, Lane County Housing and Community Services Agency (HACSA); Sponsors as well as Piercy, me and others.

Thanks additionally to Jon Barofski of LaPerla Restaurant for his gifts of restaurant certificates to the many landlords who have helped find housing solutions where they did not exist before.

As we progress in our work housing homeless veterans, similar efforts will follow to assist other segments of the homeless population, including single mothers, teenagers and other groups deserving high-priority attention.

 

 

We are moving in on our goal of housing 365 homeless veterans in Lane County. by Pat Farr

Friday, August 7th, 2015

 

Report from Veterans Website:  On November 11, 2014 Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and County Commissioner Pat Farr launched Operation 365 Veterans in response to Michelle Obama’s challenge “to make a commitment to ending veteran homelessness in their cities in 2015.”

Veteran phot

We are now in our ninth month of Operation 365 Veterans efforts to house homeless veteran in Lane County.  It continues to be a team effort between public entities (Lane County, Eugene, HACSA, HUD), non-profit groups (St. Vincent DePaul, Eugene Mission) and private industry (land lords, volunteers, individual and corporate donors).

Tod Schneider from the City of Eugene is keeping close track of our progress toward the goal.

During a conference call with other cities in the Northwest Region on August 7 we were able to report that as of this week we have housed 205 of our goal finding housing for 365 unhoused veterans before November 31 2015, and with three months to go we are proceeding with increased efforts to realize the goal.

In the next two weeks I will be joining other elected officials including Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy in contacting land lords who have already participated in providing rental units for veterans to thank them for their efforts so far and to enlist their help in broadening the outreach to other landlords.

A list of local Veteran resources has been published in order to allow homeless veterans and others who know of homeless veterans to access the resources made available through the local efforts.  To see the list follow this link.

Temporary Rest Stops for Homeless Vets Even More Strongly Supported

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Do you support or oppose Lane County providing temporary “rest stops” for homeless veterans?

For complete poll results, click here.

Veterans’ Housing Project places another veteran and his family in a new house. by Pat Farr

Friday, June 26th, 2015

 

The Veterans’ Housing Project has placed another veteran and his family in a home.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Seneca House, the 7th Veterans' Housing Project home

At the ribbon cutting with Lieutenant Colonel San Miguel at the ceremony for the Seneca House, the 7th Veterans’ Housing Project home

Samson Smith, an Army Veteran, and his family moved into their new home on May 26 2015.

The home is a product of a broad coalition of allies who teamed together to make it possible.  The house is called the Seneca House in honor of the Seneca Jones Company which contributed the money for the project.

St Vincent DePaul of Lane County coordinated the project and was joined by Lane County, the City of Eugene and other volunteer groups and organizations.

“While we’re proud this house bears the Seneca name, its not about us,” Todd Payne, General Manager of Seneca Sawmill said.  “It’s about Samson Smith and his family and letting them know how much we value their sacrifice and their service.”

This house and the Veterans’ Housing Project are a part of Operation 365 Veterans, which is dedicated to ensuring that there will be no homeless veterans in Lane County by October 31 2015.  We are more than half way to the goal, having placed more than 180 formerly homeless veterans in homes since the Operation began in November 2014.

 

Strategizing to house homeless veterans in Lane County. by Pat Farr

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

 

On June 1 I hosted a workshop, along with Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, to strategize effective ways to complete our goal of housing all homeless veterans in Lane County by November 1 2015.

Speaking to the workshop of over 60 participants

Speaking to the workshop of over 60 participants

More than 60 participants engaged in an afternoon-long deep discussion to develop an action plan of strategies to meet the goal.

I listed successes we have had in the first half of the plan that have resulted in finding  places to live for about half of the veterans identified as homeless last fall.

St. Vincent DePaul's Veterans' Homeless Project has resulted in seven houses being provided for veteran families, including the Seneca House, dedicated last month.

St. Vincent DePaul’s Veterans’ Homeless Project has resulted in seven houses being provided for veteran families, including the Seneca House, dedicated last month.

Breakout sessions including focusing on micro-housing and landlord participation helped create an action list of ways to draw community support and participation in meeting our goal

Participants travelled from around the state and included Margaret Salazar from HUD and Andy Smith from Association of Oregon Counties.

Over sixty participants with strong expertise and interest in housing veterans engaged in productive discussion.

Over sixty participants with strong expertise and interest in housing veterans engaged in productive discussion.

A challenge was issued for the participants to take action in specific areas within one week of the close of the action workshop.

I will be providing updated on the progress and details of actions that are being taken.

 

Housing Veterans. by Pat Farr

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

 

CONTINUING WITH THE GOAL OF “NO HOMELESS VETERANS IN LANE COUNTY BY OCTOBER 31 2015.”

At the beginning of the year there were between 350 and 400 veterans who were homeless in Lane County.  Some had returned from service to find themselves out of work and out of a home.  Others have money to pay rent but not enough for security deposits.  Many conditions surround the issue of our men and women who have served our nation not having a safe place to sleep at night.

We are addressing the conditions and so far we have surpassed the mid-point to our goal.

In early June I will be hosting a round table discussion (along with Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy) to identify and act on strategies to complete our goal.

Many of the more achievable ways to do so have already been addressed.  Invited guests at the discussion will include those who might have the greatest insights and provide the most powerful actions to help eliminate Veterans’ homelessness in our county.  Including landlords, employers, service providers, a few elected officials, educators and veterans.

I will provide more details as we begin to form strategies.

 

Operation 365 Veterans goal: no homeless veterans in Lane County. by Pat Farr

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
Flyer designed to bring attention to the consolidated efforts to place homeless veterans and their families into safe housing.

Flyer designed to bring attention to the consolidated efforts to place homeless veterans and their families into safe housing.

A color guard of veterans marches at the opening of veterans' housing units.

A color guard of veterans marches at the opening of veterans’ housing units.

Brigadier General Norm Hoffman, who I served alongside in the 2nd Bn 162nd Infantry, addresses an appreciative group at St. Vincent DePaul while I look on with Mayors Kitty Piercy (Eugene) and Christine Lundberg (Springfield).

Brigadier General Norm Hoffman, who I served alongside in the 2nd Bn 162nd Infantry, addresses an appreciative group at St. Vincent DePaul while I look on with Mayors Kitty Piercy (Eugene) and Christine Lundberg (Springfield) along with retired Army Veteran L. Joelle Rankins Goodwin

 

On Veterans’ Day 2014 we received the grim news:  there are between 300 and 400 men and women who have fought in the armed forces of the United States who are homeless in Lane County.  Hundreds of heroes among us who didn’t have a roof over their heads that night.  It was news that made it nearly impossible for me to sleep in my own home, safe and dry and warm while they had no door to lock, no heat to turn up, no kitchen to prepare a meal.

So we launched Operation 365 Veterans with the goal of finding a home each day for the next year for one of these men and women and their families.

By Veterans Day 2015 we intend to be able to say, “There are no homeless veterans in Lane County.”

And we are off to a good start.  With partnerships forged between St. Vincent DePaul of Lane County, the cities of Eugene and Springfield and Lane County we are exceeding our daily goals and with public , private and nonprofit groups working side-by-side we will be able to make that a true statement.

See Operation 365 Veterans Facebook Page for more details and updates on our progress.