Unhoused Sanctuary Finds A Home

Alex Daniell working at Opportunity Village, a transitional community similar to the Nightengale Health Sanctuary. Photo: Camilla Mortensen.
Alex Daniell working at Opportunity Village, a transitional community similar to the Nightengale Health Sanctuary. Photo: Camilla Mortensen.

The Nightingale Health Sanctuary Steering Committee has found a 1.1-acre lot on which they will start the Nightingale Health Sanctuary, a self-governing community of homeless people intended to promote health and recovery.

Steering committee member Mary Broadhurst asked that the location not be disclosed because the group is still doing neighborhood outreach.

Residents will start out living in tents. Organizers hope to build Conestoga huts — semi-permanent 6-by-1-foot structures — and then move on to micro-housing. The site will eventually be similar to the transitional tiny house community, Opportunity Village Eugene, says Michael Carrigan, a steering committee member and community organizer for Community Alliance of Lane County.

Land use laws limit the starting capacity to six residents, but the steering committee hopes to increase that number over time, Broadhurst says.

Tenants will sign a community agreement prior to moving onto the site. The contract obligates them to attend weekly meetings and work at least 13 hours per week on the maintenance or operation of the site, and it prohibits violence and alcohol, among other stipulations. Tenants who don’t follow the rules will be asked to leave either temporarily or permanently.

An anonymous donor pledged $400,000 to fund the sanctuary in April following the city’s closure of Whoville — a homeless camp of between 20 and 40 people that was located on the intersection of Broadway and Hilyard Streets for eight months.

The community will be a more positive and healing-oriented environment than Whoville, Broadhurst says, because they will be able to kick people off the land who do not comply with rules.

Community volunteers will teach yoga, cooking and peer-to-peer mediation, among other activities, to site residents. Long-term goals include a two-day per week health clinic, gardens and an emergency overnight shelter where people stop in only to sleep.

The committee announced plans for the project at the July 9 Whiteaker Community Council meeting. Reactions from the approximately 40 people attending ranged from the notion that it could be an asset to the neighborhood, to concern about the site bringing more drug use or otherwise unpleasant behavior to the area.

Nathan “Red” Showers, steering committee member and former Whoville organizer, says he and other former Whoville residents will live at the new site. He says many of them are willing to embrace a more structured environment. There are a lot of homeless people in the area who have substance abuse issues or disabilities, he says, who could benefit from living somewhere like Nightingale Health Sanctuary. “That is our plan — to help those kind of people get back on their feet. And the elderly that need just a place to stay and put their stuff,” he says. — Missy Corr