“The camp has just been a beautiful step for me.”
Patrick Shipley, 53, lives in a Conestoga Hut at the Eugene Safe Spot, one of two camps for the homeless managed by Community Supported Shelters. The camp has 18 residents, living in Huts or in “tent huts,” tents on platforms with plastic “roofs” overhead.
I was living with my mother in Briarwood Mobile Home Park, helping her out, and she decided she wanted to live by herself. I stayed at the Mission for two-and-a-half years. I decided to leave there to get a change of scenery and met Art and Charlene [site managers at Eugene Safe Spot] down on the mall. They said I could sleep in their tent at Whoville. I went from there to filling out an application at Opportunity Village, then went on to fill out the application with Erik [de Buhr, executive director of Community Supported Shelters] and get in with the Safe Spot in January of this year.
Compared to Whoville, the camp has more structure, more rules, better cleanup. Over at Whoville, it was like if you got there in the nick of time to get a cup of coffee, you’d have coffee. Here, if you need a cup of coffee, there’s about two of three pots being brewed at one time and people taking care of it.
At first in the camp, I lived in a tent and even that was fine. Then I moved into one of the Conestoga Huts. I worked with the volunteers putting the Hut together. That was very interesting, putting the roof on, putting the beams in, and everything like that.
The Hut changed my life dramatically. Got a roof over my head, more security. In a tent, if it’s raining, everything gets wet. In a hut everything stays dry.
Everybody in the camp is required to donate time. I am the liaison for Safe Spot to NextStep, which recycles, dismantles, and rebuilds computer. People in the camp come to me and I set up the meeting and take them over to NextStep to fill out the application. If they need help on figuring out how to separate things and stuff like that, I stay there and help them out.
Other rules are no drugs in the camp, which is great. Don’t smoke inside your hut, don’t smoke in the common living area. Leave the camp from 10 o’clock to 4 in the afternoon. And just generally, to help out. We just decided this week to start trying for the whole camp to go out and clean up an area outside of the camp.
We meet every Thursday as a group to see how everybody is doing and sit down and listen to what we call “discussions” or what I call “complaints” and try to solve all them.
Winter wise, it got a little cold so we did use the Egan warming centers, but, hopefully, eventually we’ll get electricity or get a solar panel and see how that works. We didn’t have enough water so we’ve got a guy who comes in and fills up a five-gallon drum full of water but we used that up so they’re going to get a water spigot and do that. We just dug the hole for the water pipe to come through the fence so we can have running water from the city.
We have community workdays. We put sawdust down for a pathway to each and every hut. We’ve put planks down to walk into huts so we wouldn’t get them dirty and things like that.
We’ve had a few minor personal complaints but nothing you can’t overcome, work out.
We share things. If we’ve got a little bit of extra food we share the food. If someone gets hurt, we help. We put our arms around the person and give a shoulder to lean on. Everything like that.
We get to use the fire pit now other than for just cooking, can sit around it to keep warm. The city gave us permission about a month ago. The nice thing about that is that a few of the people who are in there have family who have wood that needs to be cut, so one of the fathers gave a cord-and-a-half of wood to the camp. We’re thinking about getting a tent for a community place to cook food.
I’m hoping for a different set up in a few months. I’m hoping for Grandmasters Cleaning Company Inc. and Associates to pick their business up a little more. I’m their employee. I work one day a week over at Environmental and Oregon Air as a janitor. Hoping there will be more work there soon. I do a little bit of everything.
At the camp, even with the liaison work I do, it’s more like they are teaching you to go from a Conestoga Hut to an apartment or something like that.
The camp has just been a beautiful step for me and the next one is going to be even wonderfuller.