CSS might be considered a bit unconventional in its approach to helping people create stability in their lives through the Conestoga Huts, Safe Spots, and support programs.
This “outside the box” approach seems to attract “outside the box” employees. Charles Castle, project coordinator for CSS, fits this pattern of being a little unconventional in the professional background and skill set he brings to CSS.
Charles can be found at the shop on Grant Street two or three days a week. He is also on-call for possible emergencies.
Charles is the planner and coordinator for a multitude of hands-on projects, keeping things organized for constructing and refurbishing Huts, with more than 120 now in place around Eugene and Springfield.
And he does it with good cheer and a little whimsy. After all, his true passion, in addition to helping folks lift themselves up from being unhoused, is writing poetry.
Charles first came to CSS as a volunteer for the Hut crew in 2017. He had been a licensed contractor and building site supervisor for Habitat for Humanity in Springfield, so came with plenty of talent for overseeing construction projects and managing volunteers. He was soon hired as project coordinator when a grant was secured to organize and upgrade the CSS shop.
Charles immediately started in on a “re-do” of the shop space to turn it into a more efficient site for building Hut walls, floors, and bed frames, and to develop systems for keeping track of the myriad tools and supplies. Those first few months brought a lot of dust and banging, as shelves and work stations were demolished, moved, or rebuilt, mostly by volunteers, overseen by Charles.
The space is now an organized beehive of activity on days when volunteers show up for building various components of the Huts or for loading up the trailer with parts for a new Hut build.
“Charles has become an integral part of the CSS team. With his leadership and vision CSS has more than doubled Hut building capacity. If it wasn’t for limited funds and for places to put Huts, I am sure that with his leadership we could quadruple the output of Huts.”— Erik de Buhr
Before he obtained his contractor’s license, Charles had a lengthy career with PeaceHealth, working 27 years as videographer and community relations coordinator. That work ended when PeaceHealth merged with other health organizations.
Charles is very happy to be part of the CSS team.
“I really love this work,” Charles says. “I love using my hands and getting things done, as a balance for the more introspective part of my life, which is writing poetry.”
Charles has published four books of poetry. His latest is Chasing Down the Storm, Poems from 2017-2019. He is an active member of a loose-knit guild of poets in the area. They gather regularly to read and listen to each other’s work, and provide inspiration and ideas for sharing their talents and gifts.
Sales of Chasing Down the Storm have brought in over $900. Charles is donating all the proceeds of that collection to CSS.
“It’s my small way of contributing what I can to this great organization,” he says.
From “When the Apples Were Ripening” in Chasing Down the Storm, by Charles Castle
Father, I remember when you were a tree—
all your years bearing fruit, standing with you
on the banks of the Mad River.
We were fishermen then.
I remember you taught me there is a depth
to things like rivers, like trees.
But love is the most mysterious
of all deep things
Son, fish there
along the faster currents. Learn to read
how the water moves. Become a fish
in your heart and when you become hungry,
let someone catch you,
that’s how love works…