What a week it has been! At the ROP office our highlights of the week include our pipes freezing and towing the ROP car from the ditch. (Feel free to let that inspire you to get your much needed donation in the mail to us or at www.rop.org!)
Despite these challenges, we have been delighting at the winter wonderland outside of our windows. But for many people in our communities, when you really have no place to go, it’s more of a nightmare than wonderland out there.
In Forest Grove, several area churches and community groups, including volunteers from ROP member group West County Council for Human Dignity have created their own Miracle on College Way. This week they have activated their Severe Weather Plan that opens community spaces to the homeless. In the words of coordinator Eric Canon, "There is an ongoing miracle happening in Forest Grove. It certainly can be called Community Building, but it’s more. It’s about what happens when fear is put aside and human love takes over along with great faith, courage, and dedication." You can read more of Eric’s account from last winter below.
As the economic crisis deepens, now more than ever we need this kind of beloved community to avoid the despair and fear that can so easily become hallmarks of this time in our country. Out in western Washington County, the same folks at West County Council for Human Dignity are planning meetings with social service providers and community members to take a pulse on what is happening in the community. They are establishing relationships that allow them to know what the reality is in terms of needs and gaps, but beyond cataloging problems that are then turned over to decision makers, the goal is to bring people together to figure out how people can cooperate to survive these times whether that is carpooling, help with firewood, or child care cooperatives.
This is the time for this kind of innovation and mutual aid. We should hold our elected representatives accountable to the needs of our communities, but we must also lead, as the famous line goes, by creating the change that we want to see. Please share your ideas and plans with ROP and stay tuned for ways that we can build this kind of community power across Oregon.
Warmest wishes for happy holidays, safe travels, and peace and love now and throughout the year!
Report from Severe Weather Plan Coordinator, Eric Canon, Forest Grove, OR
Last night there were 21 people who spent the night on the floor at the Forest Grove United Church of Christ. People who have no where to go and who live outside are beginning to hear that, at least when the weather gets really cold, there is a place for them which is warm and safe. They are provided a hot meal served by smiling faces. There is conversation, couches to sit on and light to read by. There are clean rest rooms, and sinks with clean warm water.
But, most important, there are neighbors and fellow human beings who have given of their time to spend an evening or a night at the church so that these people who have no home can be warm and safe. And this is not just members of the Forest Grove UCC. The broader community has responded as well. People from other churches are visiting, bringing food and a willingness to pitch in. Students at Pacific University also are willing to lend a hand. Clothing and blankets and gloves and toiletries are coming in to be handed out.
There is something very special about allowing a person who is cold and hopeless, who feels abandoned by the community, to come into a place that is warm and welcoming. And to have so many people step forward to welcome these outcasts, people who will not avert their gaze, but rather give of themselves for their brothers and sisters, this is an incredible reward.
Community building? Absolutely. And so much more.