CSS Operations Update

Did you know that in 2021, CSS built 100 Conestoga Huts to meet the growing unhoused needs of the Lane County community post-Covid? As you can imagine, this rapid expansion was quite the growth curve for our little start-up organization! In the years since, we have seen the length of stay in our Huts shift from 10 months to upwards of 2 years with the growing lack of affordable housing and, since the pandemic, our onsite hours shift to 24/7, where previously most of our clients were offsite during a significant portion of the day.  

About a foot wider and taller, this Hut also differs from our traditional template in that it has a full-size door for better accessibility. Add to that a ramp, the installation of solar panels to power a generator, and an especially spacious porta-potty, and this Hut is ready for one of our most vulnerable clients and her power wheelchair.

These factors have increased the wear and tear on the CSS community spaces and individual Huts and mandate a different look at how we deliver services to our clients. The foundation of CSS is entirely based on the idea of community, and we continue to breathe that concept into our work on a daily basis. Our Service Team brings each community together at least once a week to encourage healthy communication and troubleshoot unhealthy behaviors, as our clients navigate life with up to 18 roommates and shared spaces! They cook together, chop firewood together, and more.

For CSS Operations, 2023 will continue to be a year of renewal and renovation! With a new Director of Operations, new Facilities Manager Dustin Foskett, and fully staffed Maintenance Team, we have been focused on clearing a backlog of repairs, conducting community Hut safety inspections, and enhancing infrastructure with an eye toward livability. Beyond these essential projects, we have few fun plans in the works including . . .  

  • The expansion of our grey water filtration pilot program, presently at our Skinner site, to other CSS communities courtesy of a grant from the Oregon Country Fair. This enhancement will eliminate the need to haul grey water out of our off-grid communities each week, as well as provide relatively clean water for client gardens and green spaces.
  • Leveraging City of Eugene infrastructure funding to create more accessible paths and entryways in our communities as well as decrease the ponding that happens during heavy rains on the barrowed wetlands that host many CSS communities. 
  • Enhancing our solar systems and/or connecting communities to EWEB to increase the ease of living in our mostly off-grid communities. 
  • Revamping our shower and laundry services to better serve our existing clients with an investment in onsite washers and dryers as well as more accessible shower hours.
  • Opportunities for clients to prepare for potential CSS employment through  volunteer roles, serving alongside the Maintenance Team on routine tasks, as well as special projects.

This year is the time to shore up the infrastructure quickly assembled in 2021 and plan for sustainability in this next season. We have a wonderful foundation, willing hands ready to build, and heart-warming public support. Thank you for being a part of the Team that makes shelter possible for hundreds each year at CSS!

Tabitha Eck
Director of Operations
Community Supported Shelters