Camp Quixote –> Quixote Village. Reposted from Tim Ransom

Article from Tim Ransom (former board present and current board member) in the Spring 2014 Special Edition Newsletter from The Olympia Unitarian Universality Congregation.

The meetings of the Board and the Congregation [to vote on hosting Camp Quixote in February of 2007] were two of the most incredible and wonderful events in my life as a member of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation.  The decisions were not easy—here we were essentially flying in the face of municipal code and laws, the wishes and fears of probably the vast majority of our neighbors, and our own fears and lack of understanding of the implications of what we were doing.  And there was vigorous disagreement—while the goal of helping others was clear, how best to go about it while fulfilling our own rules of governance and protecting the congregation was fiercely debated.  But in the end we acted with one heart and head.”

I wrote that years ago, not long after the Board of Trustees of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation (OUUC) first invited a rag-tag group of homeless men and women and their political advocates to take up residence in tents on the lawn adjacent to our small Out of the Woods shelter for families.  The import and impact of those first events stay with me today. The story of the development of Camp Quixote and its eventual evolution into Quixote Village deserves a full-length book!.  Easily a dozen congregations and hundreds of volunteers have participated, and along the way many heroes have stepped up to take on the herculean tasks of coordination and support.  Their stories deserve to be told, as well.  But here I will limit myself to the part that our church congregation played in getting it all started.

It all began when a delegation of Unitarian Universalist Evergreen students came to our February 2007 board meeting.  They were from a group of homeless people and their activist supporters,  the  Poor People’s Union, who had set up an encampment on a downtown city lot in protest of a city ordinance that severely restricted the use of sidewalks, and they were being threatened by eviction, and more.  We had agreed to meet with them to talk about providing the encampment temporary sanctuary on the front lawn below Out of the Woods. They wanted to move the camp there, and it was my job as board president, along with our minister, the Rev. Arthur Vaeni, to see if that could happen within the context of our congregation, its mission and its approach to decision-making and ministry.

In hindsight it might appear that the obvious answer to this request from us as an Unitarian Universalist congregation would be “Yes.” But back then it quickly became apparent that there was a diversity of opinions about, and understanding of, homelessness and this particular iteration of it, tinged as it was by political activism.  Then, too, we had serious concerns that the Board would be subverting the normal procedures of church governance if it acted without seeking the approval of the congregation and informing our neighbors first.  After heated debate the Board reached consensus to offer sanctuary, and the next day the campers began their move to our property.  Within days special congregational and neighborhood meetings followed;. Overruling the board’s intention to limit the camp’s tenure at OUUC to 45 days, an enthusiastic congregation voted to offer them a full 90 days.  This, despite the fact that the Olympia City Manager warned us that as far as the city was concerned, an encampment on church property without a permit was just as illegal as the one downtown had been.

The true test began, of course, when the encampment, now calling itself Camp Quixote, in solidarity with a tent city protest in Paris called the Children of Don Quixote, arrived on our property.  As Rev. Vaeni will attest, pandemonium reigned.  It had been a wet winter, and the Out of the Woods lawn immediately revealed its true nature as a wetland.  Eventually volunteers provided truck loads of wood chips, and later pallets were used to keep tents out of the mud.  It was apparent right from the beginning that the camp was going to need a great deal of help to survive and not implode.  At first some of this was provided by the activist contingent, people like Rob Richards and Phil Owen of Bread and Roses, but then more and more members of our congregation quietly slipped through the woods to help set up tents, spread woodchips and welcome the residents.

The presence of Camp Quixote on our property brought us many daunting challenges, not the least of which was the negative PR we were receiving from the local newspaper.  But first and foremost on the list were negotiations with the City of Olympia to get a conditional use permit to legally host the camp (despite the fact that federal case law clearly indicated that faith communities have a constitutional right to provide such a ministry).  Out of these negotiations came the rules regarding sanitation and safety procedures and eligibility for admission to the camp (background checks, no outstanding warrants, no use of drugs or alcohol, and so on) that were eventually to become features of the residents’ own self-governance.

Another requirement was that the host church hold a community meeting to inform its neighbors of the camp’s coming and provide them an opportunity to voice concerns.  Rev. Vaeni had already visited many of the neighbors and had learned that there was a great deal of mistrust and fear among them. Some even threatened to sue us if things went wrong. But the meetings proved to be a mixed blessing. While they were a chore, they were also a great opportunity, for the OUUC congregation especially, to get to know our neighbors and begin to build community with them.  They were also an opportunity for the community to see growing support of the camp from city planning staff and police, who attended to help address our neighbors’ issues and attest to the validity of our approach.

From the very start the camp’s residents and their supporters talked of finding a site where it could be set up permanently, perhaps on someone’s private property, perhaps at Evergreen State College.  But time slipped by and nothing came of it.  Meanwhile, Rev. Vaeni and members of our church began enlisting the support of other faith communities in the region.  Eventually 14 religious leaders from eight churches, Temple Beth Hatfiloh, the Quakers, the Community for Interfaith Celebration and the Baha’i signed a letter exhorting the greater community to make a place in its midst for this response to homelessness and poverty, saying “Our willingness to reach out to those at the margins of society defines us as people of faith and morality.  If we fail in this outreach, we fail our entire community.”

Suddenly we were on a countdown to the end of the 90 days OUUC was allowed to host the camp.  Efforts to find another host were redoubled, and at the last minute volunteers from the United Churches of Olympia  convinced their congregation and leadership to step up.  Thus began the peripatetic adventures of Camp Quixote, as it moved every 90 days (later 180 days) from host congregation to host congregation, a prodigious labor that would sorely test the perseverance of the residents and of their many supporters, who time and again showed up to help dismantle and cleanup the encampment, truck it to the new site and then set it up again.  Support of the camp truly became an interfaith activity as five faith communities in Olympia (OUUC, United Churches, St. John’s Episcopal, First Methodist and First Christian) and one in Lacey (Lacey Community Church) became hosts.  Many others, including Temple Beth Hatfiloh, Westwood Baptist Church and the Muslim community, provided financial and logistical support, help with the moves and meals, and other forms of assistance.

Recognizing from the start that the future of Camp Quixote would require an extraordinary level of coordination and cooperation, Rev. Vaeni began a series of faith community meetings late in February that engaged the participants, including lay leaders from the churches, camp residents and regional experts on homelessness, in educational and planning exercises.   Eventually these gatherings gave rise to Panza (named after Don Quixote’s squire, Sancho Panza), a Camp Quixote support group originally made up of ordained and lay leaders charged with coordinating moves and hosting, facilitating the residents’ development of self-government, and pursuing the passage of supportive ordinances among the local municipalities.   Fairly quickly, under the leadership of its OUUC representatives, including Selena Kilmoyer and myself, Panza established itself as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and established a board of directors.

The next few years saw a great deal of energy spent by the Panza Board and the supporters of the Camp to work out the logistics of host church scheduling and the providing of support by volunteers.  It was apparent from the start that the best way to build support for the Camp was by encouraging people to visit it, meet the residents and help out.  Moreover, as part of the original agreement with the City, volunteers were needed to staff a host table in the Camp 24 hours a day.  This extraordinary commitment was initially made with the idea of protecting the neighborhood, but soon it became obvious that the real value was in providing security for the residents themselves.  During this time, as well, a flood of friends of Camp Quixote, along with dedicated residents and Panza members, testified at public hearings as the local municipalities—Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey and Thurston County— one by one passed ordinances allowing for church-sponsored tent camps within their jurisdictions.  Perseverance and growing community support were building a constituency.

Over time the residents of Camp Quixote changed, as some moved on to more permanent housing, jobs, or opportunities elsewhere.  Others found they could not obey the self-imposed rules of camp residency and had to leave.  But despite these changes, one idea remained constant: to find a permanent site, perhaps one where tents could be exchanged for permanent structures.  Eventually this concept became a guiding principle for Panza, and when I rejoined the Board in 2012, something truly amazing had happened.  The Board had doubled in size to include both faith community members and professionals with expertise in architecture, finance and social work. At the helm was OUUC member and long-time volunteer, Jill Severn.  And, Panza had just received notice that the state legislature had set aside over $1.5 million to build Quixote Village, a permanent supportive housing community for chronically homeless adult men and women!  And Thurston County had promised to lease to Panza, for a dollar a year for 41 years, a 2.7 acre site in southwest Olympia upon which to build!

The rest of the story is one of a community—the constituency built during seven years of fighting for and growing support for Camp Quixote—coming together to make the Village happen.  There is not space here to list all the people, churches, businesses, elected officials and staff that went to extraordinary lengths to help, as we sought additional funding, responded to the concerns and then legal attacks of some of our neighbors in southwest Olympia, applied for permits, struggled with the limitations of the site and our funding—all the one hundred and one things a home builder must contend with, multiplied several-fold.  And there were current residents of Camp Quixote who spent hours to help develop the concept and design of the Village, while all the time still facing all the difficulties of life in a tent.

Our struggles were suspended on Christmas Eve, 2013, when the 30 residents of Camp Quixote became inhabitants of Quixote Village.

Jacki’s Story

Jacki came to the village in July of 2014.  Her story is one of self-determination, strength, and courage. She lost contact with her children at a young age. After settling in at the Village she worked hard on her sobriety, as well as her patience, and was able to reunite with her children. Now, her son Michael comes by to visit on a regular basis. They like to bond over food and movies in her cottage. Jacki said, “my son has told me that he’s proud of me. It means the world to me”. She was able to see Michael walk down the aisle for his high school graduation—something that wouldn’t have been possible without the stability of a home at Quixote Village. She was also able to see her other son, William walk down an aisle – the wedding aisle! She has been so happy to reconnect with her children and continually works on her parenting skills. She is working on saving up money for a car and getting a Section 8 Voucher for her own place. We love to see their connection grow and are so glad to have Jacki with us. We can’t wait to see what’s next for her!

                                                             Jacki and her son Michael

 

 

 

Resident receives Phoenix Award from BHR

One of our residents who recently moved into her own home received the Phoenix Award from BHR! BHR is Behavioral Health Resources in Olympia, WA. BHR is a multi-county provider for mental illness and addiction recovery services. They offer therapy, outpatient treatment, psychiatry, crisis management, medication management, and many other services.

As BHR states, “The Phoenix Awards are designed to celebrate those who have used their strength to rise from the ashes of mental illness and addiction, and, those who have helped them do so. By honoring and celebrating the achievements of these special people in our community, we hope to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and/or addiction and to promote the understanding that mental illness and addiction is treatable. Sponsored by the BHR’s Community Mental Health Foundation and hosted by Olympia Federal Savings, this event celebrates lives made healthier through the skills and generosity of our community.”

Congratulations Arin. We are so proud of you!

Here is the nomination our Program Manager Raul Salazar wrote about Arin:

Arin Long was one of the original residents of Quixote Village.  She was a resident when the village was just a tent camp.  She moved into Quixote Village on December 24, 2013 and was a resident until June 30, 2017.

Arin had a long history of drug use, which was a major part of her life when she came to Camp Quixote.  Many traumatic events in her life contributed to this addiction.  As soon as she transitioned from the camp to Quixote Village, staff began working with Arin to provide her with the services needed to overcome her addictions.  Arin struggled with the process of getting clean and sober, as many people often do.  It was not easy and she was on the verge of losing her housing at Quixote Village on a few different occasions.  Staff never gave up on her and Arin never gave up on herself.  Despite going through not only her addiction to drugs, but also the loss of a close friend, Arin made the decision to enter a 60 day in-patient treatment program.  She completed the program with flying colors and returned to Quixote Village, where her housing unit was being held for her.

Upon her return, Arin began to involve herself in activities that would benefit her and others in various ways.  She received her high school diploma through South Puget Sound Community College, she paid off existing court debt to renew her driver’s license, she attended regular recovery meetings, she obtained employment, and she purchased a vehicle.  Arin also became a member of the Quixote Village Resident Committee.  A group of residents that are voted onto the committee by other residents.  The committee assists staff with daily tasks, provide guidance to new residents, and plan various resident social events.  Arin was a major contributor to the committee.

After all her success, it was clear to staff, that Arin was ready for life beyond Quixote Village.  Although staff would have been happy to have Arin stay at the Village for much longer, she made the decision to move out and share a rental home with her significant other.  Arin moved out at the end of June, 2017 and has continued to maintain her successful ways.  She is excelling at her job and is enjoying the life she has created for herself.  She maintains regular contact with Quixote Village residents and staff.  It should be noted, Arin has been clean and sober for over two and a half years now.

Arin is a great example of what can be accomplished when someone obtains stable housing and access to services.  She is also a great example of hard work and determination.  Although the process was difficult, Arin never gave up.  She believed in herself and what she could accomplish.  Quixote Village staff appreciate the opportunity to nominate Arin Long for an annual Phoenix Award.  We believe she is very deserving of this honor.

Raul introducing Arin at the Awards Ceremony

Arin telling her story

Arin receiving her award from Lowell Gordon, past BHR Foundation President

Arin receiving her award

The crew.

Arin and her significant other Adam

 

 

 

 

 

We are so proud of you Arin!

Our crew! From left: Raul, Tim, Adam, Arin, Jimi, Paulie, Anne, and Jaycie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Skills 201 Graduation!

                                           Marie giving her graduation speech

Hello everyone! I had the pleasure this Tuesday, July 25th, to witness five of our residents graduate from the Life Skills 201 Program at the Peace Center. Our residents went through a seven-week course packed with real life learning. Here are some of the things they learned:
– Budgeting (food budgeting, different ways of making a budget, envelope system)
– Saving
– Do’s and don’ts of credit cards and payday loans
– Life priorities (wants v. needs)
– Nutrition (chalked full of healthy recipes they can make from our produce in our garden)
– Fitness
– Resume building
-Goal setting
– Time management
We are SO extremely thankful for the staff and volunteers at the Peace Center for providing such a friendly and fun atmosphere. The Peace Center is part of Capital Christian Center. They are a resource center with a full food bank, workshops, and a plethora of educational workshops. We are so honored that they came to US and asked our residents what they wanted to learn. I was lucky enough to be able to attend all of the classes and see each Life Coach and resident learn from each other’s lived experiences. It was a beautiful thing! The Peace Center is planning on doing another Life Skills 201 Program in September/October. We hope for more residents and community members to join in!

                                                            Well deserved treat!

                                             Mike giving his graduation speech

                                                         Jimi receiving his award

                                                        Mike getting his certificate

 

Orting Updates

Hello all,

We have partnered with Community Frameworks, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, and Puget Sound Veterans Hope Center to create a tiny home village in Orting, Washington. The village will be the same set up as QV. Yesterday I went to go visit the area. WOW, was I impressed! The land was beautiful. It was quiet and serene. The pictures below do NOT do it justice. It had not one but TWO baseball fields and even a trout pond!

I then went to a community open forum in Orting with our partners. We presented our “case” on building affordable housing for Veterans at the Old Soldiers Home. We had great feedback and support from the community. Our very own resident Jimi gave a powerful speech about his journey from Camp Quixote to the Village. Two veterans from the Hope Center told their stories about how the Hope Center and Tacoma Mission has helped them. They will hopefully be two of our first residents in Orting!
There were some reservations from a few community members, mostly about crime and fear of drug use in their neighborhoods. We hear this one a lot. Although it is a concern to a lot of neighbors, it has proven to be nothing but the opposite at the Village and other permanent supportive housing facilities. We spoke to them about their concerns and gave them an open invitation to come to QV to see how things are here.
Overall, I would say the community open forum was successful. It was great to see all of our partners coming together in order to house homeless veterans. We still have a long way to go and may have some bumps in the road but all I can say to that is bring it on!

 

Walking into the field and admiring the landscape. From L to R: Jimi (QV resident), Sean (Executive Director), and Joe (Board Member).

Raul (Program Manager), looking for some trout.

Fishing Pond gazebo. Can you imagine hanging out here – let alone living here?!

Ted (Panza President) speaking with Alfie (Director of Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs).

 

 

Jimi (Resident) speaking with Community Frameworks

Orting Community Forum watching our PBS video.

Raul talking to the audience about Quixote Village

Yes, There is Progress!

If you have driven past the Quixote Village site recently, you might have thought,  “What’s going on? Nothing’s happening!”  Well, appearances aside, a lot has been going on, but behind the scenes.  Get this: the site has been leased to us by Thurston County (for one dollar a year for 40 years, thank you very much!), it actually falls within the jurisdiction of the City of Olympia, and the City of Tumwater, which is right across the street, actually provides some utilities.  Which resulted in some confusion about who gets to charge us for what that has taken some time to work out.  But word came down Tuesday that we are good to go, and additional excavation will begin next Monday (look for the clouds of dust!).  Meanwhile, our contractor has been assembling materials for the cabins and community building and making all the other arrangements that need to be done at this stage.

And, thanks to Camp Quixote resident/graphic specialist Jon Colt, we have a construction banner, acknowledging the major players in making Quixote Village happen, posted at the site:

Next time you drive by, things should be jumpin’!  Give a toot on your horn to show your support!  More, anon.

Quixote Village Celebration

#GiveLocal Campaign
We received a grant from The Community Foundation of South Sound. The grant only provides a portion of the funding toward our goal, but through Give South Puget Sound, YOU can help us reach it! Visit www.thecommunityfoundation.com between November 21st and December 13th to help Quixote Village keep on thriving!

Everyone deserves safe and affordable housing
We strongly believe at Quixote Village that everyone deserves safe and affordable housing. We work to provide housing for our community members experiencing homelessness in Thurston County, Washington. We are a tiny house village that offers communal living with rich peer mentorship and support. Our staff work side-by-side with residents to help them reach their individual goals and to connect them with various community services. Our houses are economically efficient, costing less than half of what it costs to build your average apartment. We also leave a smaller footprint with our simple 144 sq. ft. homes. But the most rewarding part of it all, is that our residents are no longer homeless. Housing is a primary need, first and foremost. Once residents are housed they are then able to work on other aspects of their lives such as education, employment, substance use, physical health, and mental health. This is no easy feat. Our residents are resilient survivors and we see their successes here every day.

Adopt a Tiny House
We have some great news! Always wanted to help the Village but didn’t know how? We are starting our new fundraiser “Adopt a Tiny House”. Check out the images below! You’ll get an awesome plaque and help fund our Village for the future! Contact us at 360-338-0451 for more info!

 

New Villages Coming Soon…

You read that right! At our 3 year anniversary event we announced that we are working on two more villages! We feel the Village has been such a great success that we are going to be replicating it in Pierce and Mason County. For more info check out our other site at Tiny House Justice.

TinyHouseJustice