Not Here, Nor There…But Where?

Last month I found myself at the Lane County Transfer Station (aka, the dump) with a truckload of remnants left over from pre-cutting carpets for Conestoga Huts. Being a chronic salvager, I struggled some throwing these bits into the pit never to be seen again. “If only I had the time to sit and really get to know this material I could come up with a swell meaningful use for it,” I thought. But the practical side of me argued against it, prioritizing the best use of space and keeping the shop clutter free. Reluctantly I dropped the scraps into the smelly pit and drove away with some residue of guilt.

Upon a little reflection while driving away, I recognized that this same situation, of needing to discard materials before they get in the way, occurs continually in our daily life right before our eyes, to material . . . and people. People who do not serve a purpose according to the priorities of the day are in some way or another tossed into a pit to be out of the way of more important things. For example, under many overpasses, cages have been installed to prevent homeless people from finding temporary shelter or setting up camp there. Maybe those wanting to create an image of prosperity thought it was an eyesore to have to look at the most vulnerable of our society. I admit that under a bridge is not the best place to sleep, but putting a cage up to prevent somebody from finding shelter doesn’t seem like a solution to this particular problem.

Just in the short time that we’ve been making Huts, I’ve met dozens of people who lack and want daily purpose. A fellow who just moved into a Hut at the church next door to the CSS shop begged me recently to give him something to do. He said, “I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off.” I relate with him immensely. It’s part of the reason we keep so busy making Huts. We want to stay busy for our own sanity, and we want to stay busy doing something that is beneficial to people. Through this, we’ve learned that people need more than shelter. Though shelter is the most logical first step to self-recovery, they may next need a good purpose to fulfill.

In August, we put a Hut at Tamarack Wellness Center. Surprisingly, it was the Eugene Police Department who suggested a Hut to Tamarack managers as a possible solution to the increase in burglary that has plagued the center recently. Due to the lack of resources, Tamarack could not hire a full-time security company to cover the graveyard shift. It turned out to be a no-brainer for Tamarack. Now they want to get two more Huts, which we hope to do after our October fundraiser.

The Tamarack managers chose a resident from several people on the Hut waiting list and found somebody willing to take on the role as a watchdog for their facility. In exchange, the person gets a safe place to sleep and a cell phone to call the authorities in case he senses some suspicious activities. This was the first Hut placement to come along with such a strong purpose, and we are looking forward to seeing the long-term results of it and others like it.

It’s all very much an experiment at this point. In my opinion, that’s what we need to be doing right now, as a community and as a society, experimenting with other ways to bring simple prosperity to our community. The Opportunity Village Eugene project is a good example of this kind of experimentation. Sure, there will be failures along the way, but failures will help us succeed as long as we are learning from them. Last week, a Hut got broken into and, because of that experience, we realized that we need to pay attention to how we place the backside of Huts and make sure they maintain a certain level of visibility. So, in theory, the more we fail now, the more we will be able to get things right in the future. The only true failure is to fail to try new things. If all we do is keep trying to push the problem aside and hide it from view, we all know, that the problem will only grow bigger. When failure forces us to set something aside, we must be sure we are also exploring viable alternatives. This is our dream for the Conestoga Huts: to become one of those alternative paths people in need can take to pick themselves up and find self-value and purpose within the community.

Written By: Erik de Buhr
Edited By: Guy Maynard