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.
South Eugene has risen to the occasion over the past few winters — volunteering at a local Egan Warming Center site, supporting St. Vincent de Paul’s “Live and Learn” project for homeless youth, welcoming a Rest Stop at 34th Avenue and Hilyard Street, and approving its expansion.
There’s always more we can do, but celebrating what’s already been done won’t hurt anyone.
Of all our innovations, Erik and Fay De Buhr’s Conestoga Huts may be the most original. Wooden pallets, PVC pipes, plastic sheeting, and a couple of sheets of plywood are enough to create a small space where warmth can be gathered. Their ultra-minimal design has one feature that some may consider a luxury. Each shelter has a front door with a lock.
Sleeping behind a locked door goes a long way toward getting a good night’s sleep. It also makes the daytime less stressful, because 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. There’s no knocking that.
Nathan Showers and Tracy Joscelyn are the site managers at the Rest Stop closest to my home. I asked them if they would like any sort of housewarming gift, to welcome them to the neighborhood.
Nathan heard “warming gift” and was happy to talk about socks.
“These socks are expensive,” he said, pulling up his pant leg, “but they are worth it. Athletic socks are not good for us. A sock you sweat in has to be a sock you can wash.”
St. Vincent de Paul’s Eugene Service Station on Highway 99 has laundry and shower facilities available for the homeless, but the machines are in constant use and they try to give preference to those who are working.
“A sweaty sock, after just a few days, becomes worthless,” 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 useful information. “Bi-Mart,” she added, completing Nathan’s thought.
“Music would be good,” Tracy offered, before I knew where she was heading. “Everybody likes music.”
Tracy was flipping my query, starting a plan about what they could give to their neighbors — a party.
Details of a holiday singalong quickly took shape. It will be held outside, in the Good Samaritan parking lot at 34th and Hilyard, beside almost a dozen Conestoga Huts. We’ll sing around a donated (and fire-department approved) fire pit. The residents of south Eugene’s Rest Stop for the homeless will be our hosts.
You’re invited — Friday, Dec. 22nd, beginning at 6:00 p.m. 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. With a little luck, it might start snowing as we start singing.
The Conestoga Huts have one other important luxury incorporated into their design — a small front porch, with room enough for a chair and a welcome mat.
Don Kahle (email@example.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.