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Opportunity Village Starts Work Program

Eugeneans looking for help with odd jobs or more can now turn to residents of Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE), a self-governing community of about 30 people trying to transition from homelessness to stability. Two weeks ago, “villager” Al Hutt launched a website searchable by task being sought or villager’s skill or need.

“Sometimes when people come in here they have immediate needs like a toothache or maybe they need shoes. And they can’t get going until it’s met,” Hutt says.

OVE tenants each pay $30 per month for utilities. Hutt says some residents receive a disability check from the federal government while others recycle cans or panhandle to cover their expenses. He estimates half of OVE’s 31 residents are listed in the database.

He’s working on an addition to the current website, where community “volunteers” can add their information and skills to a database that is only visible to villagers. He is hoping this will connect villagers who are seeking counseling or advice on legal, marital, debt, sexuality or addiction issues with knowledgeable community members who are willing to help.

“That way the villager doesn’t have to write down anywhere that they’re looking for those things, they can go out and search the other way,” Hutt says. He expects the other features to be up within one month. He also hopes to computerize the OVE visitor log.

“I just think it’s a great example and shows initiative of the villagers and desire to find work,” says Dan Bryant, OVE board of directors president and pastor at First Christian Church. He says the villagers want to work — not receive handouts.

Hutt has been working on the website since November. He hopes to find work as a landscaper or computer programmer and says this project was a way to brush up on his skills after a four-year hiatus. 

“The program I used to write this … when I quit doing computer programming work four years ago, it did not exist. So I had to learn it,” Hutt says.

Homeless rights advocate and newly appointed Eugene Human Rights Commission member Jennifer Frenzer-Knowlton says this program suits people transitioning from being homeless to working, who may be re-acquiring work skills such as punctuality, in part because the community members will likely be more understanding if a villager is a few minutes late than an employer would.

“It’s a matter of meeting people where they are at. If they are ready to volunteer, if they are ready to go get paid work and you have that database sitting there ready to plug people in, that’s a huge, huge asset.”

Find a helping hand at http://wkly.ws/1rw.