Housing Credit all with compassion: Guest Opinion Molly Ainsley

September 2018 Posted in Community

On a crystal, clear Saturday morning in July, we set up our information table and signs on the bridge by the Saturday Market. We were there to promote housing for the homeless in Silverton. The market was buzzing with vendors setting up their displays of gorgeous fruits and vegetables, their handmade art and delicious looking pastries. And then, streaming in from all over town, people began to arrive with baskets in hand to take home their weekly finds.

I was struck by the beauty of it all…how fortunate we are! We live in a lovely town, we’re free to walk wherever we want without fear, we’re free from the terrible sound of guns and bombs that plague so much of the world, and we live in the bounty of the Willamette Valley.

While we were sitting at the table, with a big Compassionate Silverton sign behind us, a man stopped by and asked, “if the people who support this project and have blue and white signs in their yards are ‘Compassionate’ …does that mean that everyone else is NOT compassionate?”

I was surprised by his question. I had to think for a moment. How do I read the “Compassionate Silverton” sign. When I read those blue and white signs all over town, what I see is that “compassionate” is an adjective. “Silverton IS compassionate” – ALL of Silverton. It’s just a compassionate town. And after working on this transitional housing project for several months, I can personally confirm… this town is full of caring, compassionate people.

We may have different political views and lifestyles, but people here are compassionate. All that means is that we care.

We care about our families, our friends and often even strangers. Human beings are emotionally hard-wired to care about others. We can’t help it… it’s in our DNA. Think about how you wince when someone trips and falls. Think how you cry in movies. Caring about others is automatic. And when you see a suffering homeless person and you want to look away? Welcome to the human race. That is not indifference. Sometimes caring is uncomfortable.

So the division between people who care and those who don’t care simply doesn’t exist. What does exist in Silverton and the nation as a whole it seems is the fear that a few people will assume the power and ignore and exclude those who have different views. Now that’s something we can work on!

In the process of considering how we can help the homeless citizens of Silverton, the Planning Commission was given the task of considering Oregon Transitional Housing code language to be included in our existing codes. Since the beginning, the City Council has in good faith held several open hearings and has published the code proposals for the citizens to review. During testimony equal time has been given to those in support of the code changes and those opposed. Social media has been used extensively to spread the word. Recently the code proposals have been published in Our Town. The situation is well publicized.

People want to believe their voices are being heard. So first we need to give up “right and wrong”, “those who care” vs. “those who don’t care” debate. This angry divide exists throughout our nation and the world. Maybe if we can solve it here in Silverton, we will have learned some important lessons.

We all want Silverton to remain safe and beautiful. We all want all our neighbors to have the chance to have a good life and a roof over their heads. All of us can imagine what it would be like to go home…. and the only “home” you have is a cold, wet tent or the back seat of your car. We can all imagine what it feels like when your children say they’re hungry, and you have nothing to feed them. We all care. Let’s accept that about each other.

We may still disagree, but we can feel confident that the majority of Silverton residents have had a say in the future of our community.

If we can do this, if we cooperate and work together and build trust here at home, we can accomplish what can’t seem to be done in our chaotic nation and world, to agree to disagree but to establish trust, compromise and harmony.

Silverton is a compassionate community! And together we will find ways to bring our neighbors in out of the cold.

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