Space to transition: St. Edward’s breaks ground for tiny shelter homes

June 2019 Posted in Community, People

Vicar Shana McCauley, Reverend Neysa Ellgren Shepley, and Sarah White break ground at St. Edward’s Church. MELISSA WAGONER

By Melissa Wagoner

Gloria’s path to homelessness began last December – on her birthday – when the woman who employed her as a live-in caregiver had a stroke. By Christmas she found herself living in her van with two dogs. And by Jan. 4 she was sleeping under the Marion Street Bridge in Salem with nothing but her dog and the clothes on her back.

“I felt like a refugee,” she said in a speech given on June 9 at the groundbreaking ceremony for the St. Edward’s Cottages in Silverton. “I came to Silverton and that’s when I felt human again.”

Gloria’s story is not entirely unique, according to Sarah White – Manager of Sheltering Silverton – who estimates 20 women within the Silverton Community are currently without homes.

“They come into our resource center for food and services,” she explained. “Unfortunately we get new folks all the time – and these are Silverton people.”

This high number of unhoused women was the impetus, in 2017, for 13 women who came together to discuss the possibility of building a complex of tiny transitional homes.

“We at St. Edward’s had been talking about it since 2016,” Shana McCauley – Vicar at St. Edward’s – said. “I met this group and it got really dynamic and came together.”

The housing complex – which will include four eight foot by nine foot tiny homes, each with a heater, a bed, storage space and a desk – will have access to an especially designed space within the church where there will be a bathroom and refrigerator. Residents will also have weekly access to the main kitchen.

“It’s going to be like dorm living,” White explained.

Although the cottages are not estimated to be complete until September 2019, organizers are already formulating the application process that will take place in order to find the most appropriate tenants for the complex.

“A lot of programs either choose people by their vulnerability or who’s going to be the most successful at transitioning,” White observed. “We’re looking at both. And we have a support team of peer support, alcohol recovery, legal advisors and more.”

This team will be of the utmost importance to the program’s success because tenants will only be housed for a maximum of 18 months within the cottages and organizers are hopeful that time will actually be far less.

“Some women will get stable enough to get jobs and move out individually,” White predicted. “Some women will require support to get on disability. It’s such a diverse group of people with diverse needs. But you can’t make progress if you’re focused on surviving.”

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