How SELCO is Helping to Solve Houselessness in Lane County

Communities across America are grappling with houselessness — and none more so than Eugene, Oregon, which led the nation in per capita houselessness as recently as 2019.

According to the most recent Homeless By Name dashboard, there were a total of 3,286 individuals in emergency shelter, transitional housing, or unsheltered living situations in Lane County, Eugene’s home county.

Reversing this trend takes a village — figuratively and literally — including housing solutions such as the Opportunity Village transitional tiny home village from SquareOne Villages.

Opened in August of 2013, Opportunity Village features 30 transitional micro-housing units on one acre of land in Eugene. As its name and mission imply, Opportunity Village helps transition the unhoused to more sustainable living situations by providing stable, safe, and cost-effective temporary shelter. Residents, who often earn 0-20% of the area median income, pay a $35 per month fee to live in one of the units.

Organizations such as Opportunity Village would not exist without the support of community partners, whose contributions of time, labor, materials, supplies, and funding make this great work possible.

One such partner is Eugene-based SELCO Community Credit Union, which is committed to a fully engaged approach when it comes to supporting organizations and initiatives such as Opportunity Village. That process begins with the credit union asking, “What is your most critical need, and how can we solve it together?” SELCO then works directly with the organization to develop a plan to achieve the desired outcome together.

In the case of Opportunity Village, that means providing financial resources through the establishment of a new Resident Support Program.

The Resident Support Program began in October 2017 with an initial $2,000 grant from SELCO, which has since been leveraged to secure additional grants from the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Tribe and the Siletz Charitable Contribution Fund.

“With six branches in Lane County, our team members witness firsthand and on a daily basis the houselessness crisis in Eugene and beyond,” said Tiffany Washington, SELCO’s Executive Vice President of Finance and Operations. “Opportunity Village is a critical community resource that is making a difference one resident at a time, and we want to ensure that the organization’s most critical needs are being addressed and met.”

Through a combination of monetary donations for the Resident Support Program and practical solutions, like donating portable propane heaters to provide a heat source to the units prior to their recent electrification, SELCO is helping Opportunity Village continue to thrive while meeting resident needs and working to solve homelessness in the area.

Thanks to annual contributions from SELCO and other organizations, program funds help residents take concrete steps toward employment and/or permanent housing. Such steps include acquiring an ID, renewing or obtaining a driver’s license, purchasing a Lane Transit District bus pass, renewing or receiving a job certification, financing rental deposits, and more.

“[Opportunity Village] gave me a place to just be. I didn’t have to worry about all these factors like where am I going to sleep tonight, where am I going to keep my stuff, how am I going to get my clothes washed,” said Peter, an Opportunity Village resident. “It’s all provided, so all I had to do was just be, and from there I could find out what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it. It’s really nice to have a place to be okay.”

Now that Opportunity Village has received its much-needed electrification, SELCO is already working with SquareOne Villages to determine their next most critical need and how they can work together to meet it.

“It’s a long-term commitment to working together to house the unhoused, provide resources to those who need it most, and to transition fellow members of our community into the next chapter of their lives,” said Washington.

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Posted in Community Impact.