The University of Janisse Street

To think of a homeless community, it is normal to think of shelter, food, medical and mental health services, and possibly avenues to finding work or beating substance addictions. While some people do get access to work training, receiving instruction and certification in Peer Support as well as getting food handlers cards or commercial driving licenses.

What we seldom think of is learning just for the joy of learning, for learnings sake. Over at the Eugene Mission they have many such classes, things like Yoga, Tai Chi, Sewing, as well as field trips and classes on the natural beauty of Oregon and the world.

Well at E1V, we got that too.

Some class or other.

One of the frustrating, in a good way, things about this place is the sheer abundance of classes and workshops that are available to villagers. There are multiple classes and programs every day and you really couldn’t attend all of them because you wouldn’t have time for anything else.

On the practical side, we have already had a CPR/First Aid class which has led to 15 of our villagers being certified in CPR, a skill that, sadly, may be necessary not only out in the world but right here in the village. One participant, Marley, said that the class was “Informative with a good teacher. We used a CPR monitor that gave us feedback on our compression speed.”

Villager Marley. This man could save your life.

When you are living in a place that combines many different kinds of people, and pets, who have different strengths and more importantly their own individual vulnerabilities, it is vital to have training available to deal with the situation of suddenly having, essentially, 50 roommates who you have just met. Think how difficult it is to get three roommates to agree on how long dirty dishes can be left in a sink. Now try it with 50.

So we are grateful that there are always training sessions or presentations that will give us the tools to live with each other in harmony. Future classes and seminars will include De-escalation, Suicide Prevention, COVID prevention, and Trauma-Informed Care.

Learning practical and often life-saving skills is extremely important for sure. At the same time, we want to give people the opportunity to learn things just for the fun of it, just because they want to.

Sewing Bench Cushions

What may surprise you is that we actually have partners who are professors and grad students as well as undergrads who roam around here sharing the knowledge and,
for the more senior members, wisdom that they have learned in their lives.

Ron Severson

Someone who has been here from the start is Ron Severson. He retired from the University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business, Department of Management, in 2019. He taught many things at school that you might not expect at a business school:

Programs in cultural studies, communication, social entrepreneurship and later he taught graduate students courses Microfinance and Development and in Cross-Cultural Negotiation.

Luckily for us, he is not taking the concept of retirement too seriously. He has served as Executive Director for MAPLE Microdevelopnent, a non-profit that works closely with communities in Uganda, Chile, and the U.S, to invest, often on the small scale, to help people make a go of it in a way that fits their community.

Ron’s good humor and patience are a gift to us all. We feel lucky here at the village that our community partners don’t just work in the background with staff, but come on out and mingle with the villagers in many cases literally getting their hands dirty.

Angela Norman

You will see Ron all over the place here, helping villagers get some income through workforce development, and, along with Angela Norman, formerly Market Director at the Lane County Farmers Market, and now a podcast host facilitating the gardening group bringing villagers and students into planning the garden.

Ron and Angela, and Villagers, plotting their garden moves.

They have also brought in outside experts to the gardening project, like a local permaculturist Jan Spencer.

Tour of Jan Spencer’s Permaculture Property in Eugene

Other updates have already expressed our gratitude for our partnership with, the organization of Landscape Architecture professors, grad students, and undergrads who have done so much for us.

They have had a big part in our garden projects too.

Pastor Gabe, students, and villagers working on rustic outdoor benches.

With all the opportunities to learn, we cannot leave out the art classes, that have been possibly the most popular of all the classes, especially the mosaic table project led by Stephanie Jackson from Creative Connections CAFA and her daughter Hope.

And Gina leading the clay and drawn contributions to the Gratitude Wall. (It took immense patience on her part to get a gratitude statement from some people, namely the author.)

Such a beautiful addition to our common room.

We also have a new volunteer, seamstress Judy, who we look forward to teaching us all forms of sewing, with machines, by hand, for decoration or mending, or even making your own clothes.

Judy with sewing machine, bringing her game face.

We can’t wrap this up without mentioning a consistent interest in philosophical or spiritual meetings. Most popular is Pastor Gabe’s “Spiritual Something” on Wednesday nights.

Though Gabe is a Christian pastor, these meetings are remarkably eclectic, making room for anyone who shares with sincerity and heart. It is surprising how deep these sessions go sometimes. Hopefully he will have time for other classes.

That is enough for now. There is so much more and in the future we will be posting some profiles of some of our partners, as well as whatever new opportunities for learning crop up. Our whiteboard near the office with have no rest.

Charting the daily changes.

Perhaps the best thing about all these classes and presentations has nothing to do with subject matter. Our partners show up and hang out and share what they know. It is not by Zoom or Snapchat. They come in and make contact with people ,many of whom have lost contact with polite society, sometime resigned to daily solitude.

These folk come in and treat everyone like normal, every day people, and the value in this is immense. Just to hang out, to chat, to see how our partners handle themselves and relate to us and one another is a reminder of the humanity that we all share. It is hope for and practice in life as it is lived other places than the streets.

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