by Guy Maynard and John Kline
Kindness spreads. As cold weather was setting in during the early days of autumn, Jeff Jones, 56, who shares a house with his girlfriend and brother, was “starting to get a little panicked” about where and how they could get firewood, their only source of heat.
Then he was connected to Kindeavor, a collaboration between Community Supported Shelters (CSS) and the Spreading Kindness Campaign. Soon after, residents from CSS Safe Spots delivered a full cord of well-seasoned fir, all split up and ready for their wood stove. “It saved us,” Jones says.
CSS builds and places Conestoga Huts and emergency micro-shelters, and manages three Safe Spots, which serve as transitional communities for people who have been homeless. The Spreading Kindness Campaign is an 18-month effort to “increase kindness in our community, one small act at a time.” The Kindeavor project came out of a brainstorming session between leaders of the two organizations.
“Part of the reason for this project is there’s so much concern about homelessness, [especially] for business people who see it interfering with their business,” Doug Carnine of the Kindness Campaign says. “We’re trying to show people who are unhoused doing beneficial things in the community to create an alternative image to the one that’s so prevalent and destructive.”
In addition to Safe Spot residents providing firewood to people who need it, the pilot phase of this project involves repairing bicycles, donated by Lane Transit District, for others in need, and serving coffee and donuts downtown.
The services are provided free, and the Safe Spot residents are paid $12 an hour for their work, with funding provided by the Spreading Kindness Campaign.
People experiencing the trauma of homelessness are often instinctively kind, says Erik de Buhr, executive director of CSS, but it isn’t always easy. “This is a chance to further cultivate a culture of kindness among the people we serve,” he says, “while they also can make a little money doing good work.”
“Evidence shows that kindness helps those who are giving as much or more than it does those who are recipients,” Linda Carnine of the Spreading Kindness Campaign says.
Trinnia Ramsey, who lives at the CSS Northwest Expressway Safe Spot, served coffee and doughnuts at Kesey Square on a recent rainy Friday. “This is a really good opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to me,” she says. “It really means a lot.”
Ian Hall, 38, homeless for most of the past 16 years, appreciated the hot drink and sweets, but saw something even more important. “This really shows [that] people like the ones serving today, and like me, can be more self-sufficient — with the right opportunity.”
Organizers hope to turn the pilot phase of Kindeavor into an ongoing effort, and The Spreading Kindness Campaign will explore wide-ranging opportunities to practice kindness, including a breakout session about housing challenges, at the Choosing Kindness Celebration, a free event at The Shedd 2 pm Sunday, Nov. 3.
Guy Maynard and John Kline are volunteers with Community Supported Shelters.