Opportunity Village in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Opportunity Village in Nevada City

According to Amnesty International, 2.3 million homeless people live in the United States.

The average homeless person lives to less than 50 years old. A rather unfortunate testimony to how we treat our fellow citizens, much less the large percentage of them who have previously gone off to fight our foreign wars.

I believe that, working together, we can answer the essential question of our times: “Where were you when our fellow citizens and veterans needed us?”

I know that many at Hospitality House and CoRR have been working very hard on this issue, but now I think that it’s time that we can come together to coalesce another important and complementary solution as well. There are too many people sleeping and dying in our forests to not do more.

Come on Nevada City, we can do this, but not without everyone pulling together.

I have invited Andrew Heben, one of the key creators for Opportunity Village in Eugene, Ore., to do a public presentation in Nevada City at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10 at the Elks Lodge in Nevada City.

Opportunity Village is an encampment in Eugene where individuals, who otherwise don’t have a house, find shelter, a very tiny house, often shelter that they have helped build and a safe place to find refuge and to get their bearings a little better than a sleeping bag in the woods. Andrew will present the challenges, the benefits and answer whatever questions we have about their Opportunity Village in Eugene.

Eugene Police Lt. Eric Klinko said officers only have been summoned to the village a few times, mainly to deal with drunken or disruptive people. “It has gone better than I thought it would,” he was quoted as saying in Eugene’s Register-Guard newspaper. The village “has not been a burden to the neighborhood in terms of a crime impact.”

Come on Nevada City, we can do this, but not without everyone pulling together.

Many important movements in Nevada City started with a public presentation. Such as when Charles Woods and David Osborn invited presenters from Davis regarding the potential of this town (before Historic District Designation) and Historic District Designation soon followed.

Historic District Designation prevailed despite considerable pushback and controversy, and proved to be a big benefit to facilitating our goals for a cohesive sense of place and to facilitate a long-term community. After years and years of conversations about the importance of creating a new workforce housing in Nevada City, Katie McCamant and I did a public presentation about cohousing at Helling library and 150 people attended. According to the front page of The Union at the time, the average house in Nevada City was $500,000. The cohousing built affordable housing at $255,000 and 13 school teachers were able to move to town.

To create a momentum for a very proven and successful means of helping people survive, I’m asking you to attend the Nov. 10 presentation, and to forward this note to others who might be interested in coming as well.

Obviously, we’re trying to create enough awareness of this solution that something more can be done in the near future. I believe in a public presentation like this in order to have a longer conversation — that usually moves things forward more than a three-minute sound bite at City Hall.

Thanks to everyone in advance for all of your help. Hopefully, we can do something — nothing fancy — but something that can help folks have better, longer lives. Something that will more likely set individuals up for success and therefore, sets our town up for success.

It worked for Eugene. The town is in the middle of a considerable economic boom and the timing is right here, as well, if not long overdue. It is providing shelter, if only ad hoc and temporary, and it is a proven model being done around the U.S. to help and it can work for us as well.

And I believe that in a community-like setting, like Opportunity Village, that people can help each other, and people in the larger community can participate as well. We can participate in the village, we can do even more than building, but we can’t help the person in the sleeping bag in the woods. There in the Village some, even minor, services can be rendered. There is no good reason to delay further.

McCamant & Durrett Architects and the nonprofit Sierra Roots are currently sponsoring this presentation. We welcome all who want to help and thank you in advance for coming to the presentation on Nov. 10 and the subsequent work necessary to get more homeless people into a safe place.

Chuck Durrett is the principal architect at McCamant & Durrett Architects in Nevada City.

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