“Shame on us if we cannot succeed in this effort.”
Craig Satein, 63, is treasurer of Community Supported Shelters’ board of directors. He retired a year ago from the position of director of the Housing Community Services Agency of Lane County, where he worked for 29 years. In addition to serving on the board, Satein constructs the floor components of the Conestoga Huts at his home in Jasper.
My youngest daughter Hannah and I went to the Holiday Market last December and we noticed this interesting structure parked out in front. We saw this young woman standing underneath an umbrella ready to engage folks. It piqued our curiosity and we started chatting with her. I exchanged some information and one thing led to another and I started having some contact with Erik [de Buhr, CSS executive director] and went to a couple of the build workshops.
It was very easy for me to get excited about what CSS is doing, the approach, the tactics, the purpose, and the fact that we are getting this through volunteers, there is nothing stronger than that in my opinion. And it’s probably the most appropriate constructive response to homelessness in the last 20 years within the Lane County community because it’s not lip service; it’s direct action.
Erik invited me to join the CSS board, which I readily accepted. The board was agreeable to that and then I was nominated for treasurer because I’ve had a lot of experience with numbers and planning and such. The board primarily offers guidance, some vision, and support to Erik. Then there is some direct hands-on work, in terms of fundraising and coordinating activities.
Working on three different build projects and seeing a large group of folks who all wanted to participate in putting these Huts together, I sensed that often we got in each other’s way, through no one’s fault but just from the congregation of so many folks who don’t have a specific role. So I thought if I was to prefab the floors at my home, have that project completely done, then the rest of the assembly could just take place from that point.
I love being out here. This is a nice environment. I can take my time, work at my pace and just maximize the efficiency. I usually get a volunteer to join me. It’s been my brother Mark on three different occurrences and Jim [Schmidt] has helped me as well.
What I’m really enjoying is seeing the evolution of this Hut. We’re soon to take this next stage, which is we’re going to go with the rigid insulation over the Hut and a 30-year fabric over that, so that means the effort that’s going into these units is going to be longstanding and serve the community for many years. And that just makes everyone involved feel better that these things are not just going to be up one year and down the next but they are going to be longstanding—and we need them.
The Huts psychologically benefit the community by directly serving folks that are currently suffering hugely, feeling disconnected, dispossessed, not part of the community. That inclusiveness serves all of us wonderfully. Secondly, the Huts take pressure off other community resources because they are now recognized as a tangible alternative to permanent structures. And the resource requirements are so minimal compared to conventional housing. I’m not saying the Huts are the end-all. They’re transitional. But they’ll help stabilize our community long enough to give consideration to other forms of micro-housing, which will become more permanent and will encourage more of the village type mindset.
Shame on us if we cannot succeed in this effort. Because living in a tent is okay for a week of camping but thereafter that’s not acceptable.
What I would like to see is to have CSS get to a point where we have sustained funding that allows us to forecast developing a number of units throughout Lane County. There are so many underserved communities. It’s wonderful that this initial energy is all happening in Eugene but I’d like to see that serve as a template to keep on producing similar efforts throughout Lane County. That would be a delight and then to have enough sustained funding that you don’t have to be holding your breath every month wondering if you can pay your bills.
I just really hope that the success that’s already being enjoyed from this effort will be realized not only in Lane County but other communities will look at this and get inspired and want to do more. It is the veritable pebble that drops in the water and I hope those ripples just radiate out. And I think they are.
It truly is amazing how far we have come in seven months. It underscores the initiative and the drive and the passion with everyone who’s involved. There is strong, strong energy to make this happen.