While updating all of the happenings here at the village, somehow we have neglected to tell you much about our amazing staff. That ends today. We feel lucky for each of our staff members, and all of them deserve and will get, a little recognition of their own.
Today we are introducing you to one Ricky McNicol, a site lead and peer support case manager here at E1V, and one of the true characters at the village. We sat down with him for an interview for this profile and had a good time and were surprised by all the things we didn’t know about him.
Ricky is living proof to the people living here that someone can spend many years on the street, pull himself up out of those circumstances and that mentality, and become an extremely valued member of his community. Ricky is the sort of employee who, while kind and sensitive, has a strong -don’t-mess-with-me presence about him. Lately, he has kind of been an iron-man employee, covering so many shifts for other site leads, that it came to the point where he worked six days straight, averaging between 13 and 16 hours a day.
Ricky has been with us for about 4 months now, and one of the great stories about him was the way he got the job. We should let him tell the story himself.
Q: How did you get this job?
A: “Okay my mentor was trying to inform me that I could always do something better than just pump gas and that with my skill set, even though I might have a criminal background in some areas, I belong in an upper position working with the city or the state.
And so, one day I decided just to start believing in what he was saying and believing in myself, and I checked in with Everyone Village and I met and was in contact with Heather a few times off and on, and then she called for an interview approximately two weeks later.
On my way to the interview, there were two villagers in front of the village. One had been asked to leave, and the other one lived here, and they were in the middle of the street getting ready to fight. Seeing this going on I came up and stepped in between them and de-escalated the whole situation immediately and told one to walk one way and the other to walk the other way.
Heather saw it and asked me how I did it and I told her that de-escalating events like that with people fighting was in my skill set.
So there was no interview. She said, ‘You got the job.'”
Q: What are your responsibilities as a Site Lead?
A: “My job responsibilities are to give and provide support for villagers on many different grounds like employment, personal conflicts, inner conflicts, and to be security, and anything else that Gabe or Gina might ask me. I also help by providing any material things villagers need to take or borrow, like paper supplies, or the bike pump.”
Q: How do you deal with conflict between villagers?
A: ” I approach quickly and try to get both of them to look away from each other. And then right away, I try not to take sides, but I do give both sides credit. And I reaffirm for them that they both have a valid reason and statement, right? And that they both have an equal right to have their feelings. My best way to deal with them is just to be reaffirming and confirm that they are valid issues that they’re having.”
Q: What does a typical day at Everyone Village look like for you?
A: “A typical day for me is I’ll come in and I’ll check in with my co-workers to find out what kind of issues they are dealing with during the day. From that point, I do rounds, I’ll check the perimeter, check security cameras and from there, I go to individuals and see how their days are going and just to check in with them. To make sure that we have the same information going on with my other co-workers.”
Q: What is your favorite memory from work?
A: “My favorite memory is I’d have to say my first success story, a villager who was looking for a job and I was trying to keep her from working in a gambling place. I wanted her to work in more of a setting that’s family oriented, respectable. And so I talked to the boss at a store and said, ‘Listen, I’m here to advocate for this person. And I’m hoping that maybe you’ll give her an interview. And so from that point on, it’s up to her whether she gets a job or not.’ So the lady that did the interview was really impressed that I would go out of my way to do this. And so she got the interview, and two weeks later, she got the job.”
Q: And you do that pretty consistently right? Advocate for people, between staff and villagers, between villagers, right? Day in and day out. So people come to you with their problems and you can do it calmly. Help them get what they need.
Q: What is the most common question villagers ask you?
A: “I guess the most common question now is how did I do it?”
To interrupt Ricky for a moment, this one is going to take a little explanation. You see, many of our villagers are weighed down by many challenges, both legal and personal, often dealing with family and substance abuse, and even just many years outside the mainstream of society. To them, getting up off the streets and into the mainstream looks like an impossible task.
And here is where Ricky pulls out a kind of a secret weapon because the reason they ask him this question is because they know that Ricky himself, pretty recently, was exactly where they are, and being able to talk to and hang out with someone who has achieved exactly what they are hoping to achieve is inspiring in a unique way.
While not proud of his background, Ricky is open about it and willing to share his experiences, especially if he thinks it will help a villager move forward in life.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your own street background and why it helps villagers make changes in their lives?
A: “So they look like it’s a huge mystery like, they see you and they go well, he did it. Maybe he can tell us how to do it. So you’re basically inspiring people because they’re just like, ‘well, okay, it’s possible, and tell me how to do it.’
Okay, so I used to be a business owner, I had a fencing business and a handyman/painting business. And then, during my divorce, I went downhill and got into drugs. I ended up homeless as well and lived on the streets homeless for nine years here in Eugene.
From that point on, my way of survival was drugs and crime. Eventually, it just wasn’t working for me. My decision to change was during the COVID pandemic. I went to jail for possession of a handgun and during that time in jail, I had taken some hits of LSD and spent weeks just trying to come down and find out what reality was, which I didn’t know.
I was hallucinating really bad. I’d spend weeks on end trying to dig out myself out, thinking there was a tunnel. I couldn’t get out. And then one day, it just seemed like I just started praying and the Holy Spirit came over me and I actually came down and I started seeing things the way they should be. And I started taking medication and got myself organized.”
Q: This is a question I have been waiting to ask. What street skills are transferable to the work you are doing now?
A: “Okay, so my street skills I would say knowing when somebody’s lying, being able to tell by body language, what their next move is. Sizing up the individual as I’ve been there in those shoes, my street skills consist of the strength of just knowing and having been there.”
Q: Sometimes our villagers struggle with substance addictions. Do your street skills help with that?
A: “Each drug has its own indications. By body movement, body language. Let’s just say for instance, like heroin or blues or any kind of downers, there’ll be sleepy nodding out, itchy, sweaty, slurred speech. Where with methamphetamines they’re up, they’re shifty, they’re paranoid, etc.”
Q: People may not know that Gabe and Gina are very generous with paying for any training we need here. You have taken more training here than anyone. That is why we joke and say that Ricky took astronaut training in his spare time on the weekend. Can you tell us a little about your background, education, and training?
A: “I was born in Tooele Utah but raised in Salt Lake City, having lived there and in Washington state. I’m a high school graduate, with some college, a small stint at Weaver State College.
My training consists of Peer Support Specialist certification training, Trauma Informed Care Training, De-escalation training by CAHOOTS, and I am HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) trained for case management software, as well as Anger Management Facilitator training. Basically that and a lot of street knowledge.
For self-defense, I was the 1979 Utah state Golden Gloves Champ, so I am a pretty good boxer. I also have a brown belt in Kei Shin Kan Karate.”
Q: What do you like the most about your job?
A: “The one thing I like the most about my job is the reward behind it, the fulfillment of seeing somebody make steps forward in their life and see the light turned on in their eyes. Yeah. And just the glow about them when they realize that they can accomplish things that in their mind would seem uncommon.”
Q: What is your biggest challenge working at Everyone Village?
A: “My biggest challenge is myself, I would have to say, and I say that because at times I am dealing with people on their issues and I find that I want to get personally involved, more than I’m allowed to do. And so my biggest challenge is that tried to keep myself completely unbiased.”
Q:What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
A: “I like to spend time with my son and my granddaughter. I love fast cars. I love building cars and working on them with my sons.”
Q: This last question I already know the answer to you and I am asking it just to embarrass you. Do you hold any world records?
A: (Looking at the interviewer out of the corner of his eye.) “I used to hold the long jump record for 300 feet on a quad bike. And then Travis Pastrana came and beat me by 325 feet after nine years.”
Q: How would you say you make the world better?
A: “How I’m making things better as I’m giving a helping hand with my co-workers to build a rapport with people to be able to establish the fact that they can be part of society, and what we’re doing as a team as we said, we guide people to a place in their mind where they need to be so that they can be part of society and working society, and have respect in their neighborhood and have respect for each other.”
Q: What values drive you?
A: God, love and faith.
The interviewer wants to thank Ricky for taking the time to sit down and talk, and most especially for being an irreplaceable part of the Everyone Village team.