opportunity knocks

Opportunity doesn’t knock if you don’t have a door. Opportunity may rustle the grass near your head or whisk past your car camper, but getting a good night’s sleep is hard enough when you’re living outdoors in the winter. Who wants to be woken by some strange knocking sound?

I’m pleased that we’re trying so many different things to keep people out of the elements this winter — the Egan Warming Center, car camping, Emerald Village’s tiny houses, and a smattering of Rest Stops around town.

Erik and Fay De Buhr’s Community Supported Shelters has designed and built temporary housing for the homeless. The absolute minimalism of their Conestoga Hut design provides shelter and relies on community support. Their organization is well named.

Foremost among their shelter’s features is a front door, with a lock. Sleeping behind a locked door goes a long way toward a good night’s sleep. It also makes the daytime less stressful, when you don’t have to schlep all your stuff with you everywhere you go. You want to know that your stuff is safe, even if you’re not always there to protect it. That locked door opens new possibilities for people. There’s no knocking that.

I got to talking the other day with Nathan Showers and Tracy Joscelyn, site managers at the homeless rest stop closest to my home. I asked them if they would like any sort of housewarming gift, to welcome them into the neighborhood.

Nathan heard “warming gift” and was happy to tell me about his socks.

“These socks are expensive,” he said, pulling up his pant leg, “but they are worth it. Athletic socks are good in the summer, but — no, they’re really not. A sock you sweat in has to be a sock you can wash.”

And that’s a service that’s not always available to the homeless. St. Vincent de Paul’s Eugene Service Station on Highway 99 has laundry and shower facilities available for the homeless, but they try to give preference to those who are working.

“A sweaty sock, after just a few days, is not really worth much,” Nathan continued. “But socks like this — I think they’re for hunting — they keep you really warm and they last a long time.”

Tracy listened to her partner patiently, knowing it wasn’t exactly the question I had asked, but that it was also useful information. “Bi-Mart,” she added, to complete Nathan’s thought.

“Music would be good,” Tracy offered, before I knew where she was heading. “Everybody likes music.”

With no prior thought that I could see, we three began discussing the details of a holiday singalong. It will be held outside, in the Good Samaritan parking lot beside almost a dozen Conestoga Huts. We’ll sing around a donated (and fire-department approved) fire pit. The neighborhood event is hosted by residents of south Eugene’s Rest Stop for the homeless.

You’re invited. It’s tonight, Friday, Dec. 22nd. It will start at 6:00 p.m. and it will finish when our hosts run out of hot chocolate. You can bring the words to a favorite song, an extra chair if it’s easy to tote, and any holiday treats you might like to share.

Dress for warmth, but otherwise, come as you are. The event will be canceled if it’s raining, but not for the cold.

South Eugene has risen to the occasion over the past few winters — staffing an Egan Warming Center site, welcoming this rest stop at 34th Avenue and Hilyard Street, and helping to support St. Vincent de Paul’s “Live and Learn” project for homeless youth.

There’s something to be said for blurring the lines between the haves and the have-nots. Tribalism should be confronted as our common enemy, no matter what tribe you’re from, and whatever your current standing may be within that tribe.

Tracy’s right. Everybody likes music. That’s something we all have in common. It’s something that’s easy to share. Our hosts, a small group of unhoused neighbors, will show us a good time as we can welcome them to the neighborhood. ’Tis the season.


Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.