OutsidersInn In The News

Church in Washougal offers space for homeless

St. Anne’s Episcopal embraces Safe Car Camping Program

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith



WASHOUGAL — Cory Soderberg said he used to be awakened in the middle of the night by a tap on his window or a flashlight shining into his Dodge Caravan.

“I’ve been chased out of everything 20 times, and all the cops know me by name,” said Soderberg, who’s been living in his van for nine months.

Now, the 52-year-old sleeps soundly, knowing he won’t be bothered in the parking lot of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Washougal. He’s one of nine people staying in cars and small mobile shelters at the church through the Safe Car Camping Program, which is still in its infancy in Clark County. St. Anne’s is the only church in the county allowing people to park vehicles overnight, at least in this formal capacity, though program organizers aim to expand the program to other willing congregations.

“It gives me a peace of mind and a stability where I’m not looking over my shoulder. I sleep better, and I’m not constantly on the run,” Soderberg said, adding that it helps his dignity. “People don’t get that it’s really hard to play this part for me. It makes other people uncomfortable a lot, but it’s a lot harder for me than it is for you to watch me.”

The Rev. Jessie Smith began hosting people, including a family of seven, a few days before Christmas; she had been contemplating allowing car camping since attending a workshop in the fall. Religious assemblies are able to use their land to provide a safe space for the homeless regardless of land-use laws because it’s seen as part of their religious mission.

The only real cost to St. Anne’s is renting a port-a-potty, which costs less than $100 monthly, Smith said. Volunteers unlock the church to let people use the kitchen and bathroom between 5 and 7 p.m. Car campers have to be out by 9 a.m. to give the church full use of the parking lot during the day.

Adam Kravitz, founder of Outsiders Inn, a resource advocacy group in Vancouver, spoke to the congregation about the need for this program, and Smith explained how it tied into the Episcopal faith.

“We follow Jesus, who was hospitable to people across every boundary that he could find,” Smith said. “This one small thing we can do to show love across boundaries is to share the gifts that we do have, which is this space, this land, this building.”

The church property has trees that offer some privacy, and it has fields on two sides. Renters at the house next door, which is owned by the church, were OK with having cars and shelters nearby.

It won’t always be so private, though. The field to the west is the proposed site of a three-story apartment complex.

Still, the car-camping program is intended to be a temporary solution to the larger issue of the lack of shelter space and affordable housing in Clark County. Previously, Kravitz and other homeless advocates had rallied around a plan to secure church land where they could build a village of tiny houses. Originally, Safe Harbor Church of the Nazarene in Vancouver offered up its empty field but backed out after threat of a lawsuit. Although Kravitz is still interested in the village, finding appropriate property has been difficult, and the coldest months of winter when it was needed most have come and gone, he said.

“We wanted to make that happen a lot sooner,” he said.

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Advocate for homeless builds on experience


"Adam Kravitz found purpose through loss, hardship"


By Katie Gillespie, Columbian County Government Reporter


Adam Kravitz byNatalieBehringAdam Kravitz’s life story has been full of loss.

His older brothers died of drug overdoses in 2001 and 2004. He also lost his mother to her drug addiction about 15 years ago.

He also tells of an unexpected death of a girlfriend seven years ago, which Kravitz said broke something inside him. Alone from the deaths of so many people he loved, Kravitz chose a life on the streets, turning away from his home, his possessions and his job as a restaurant manager.

“Any time I ever had anyone close to me they seemed to die,” Kravitz said. “It was the last straw for me at this point.”

For nearly six years, Kravitz was homeless. Despite the loss of his family members due to drug addiction, he isolated himself from the rest of the world by turning to methamphetamine. It kept him warm and awake on cold nights, and helped him forget his suffering, he said.

But fast-forward to this year. After years of homelessness, multiple arrests for drug possession and nearly two years reshaping his life in drug court, Kravitz, now 49, is a local leader in the fight against Clark County’s homeless problem. He uses his own experiences to help those in the same place he once was. His nonprofit, Outsiders Inn, helps empower homeless people to connect with the services they need. Most recently, he was invited to be a peer mentor for the residents of a proposed temporary emergency village for the homeless near the Garrison Square shopping center in central Vancouver.

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Council for Homeless, pastor plan village of 40 tiny houses


Temporary ‘Band-Aid’ intended to aid those most vulnerable who need a leg up


By Amy Fischer, Columbian City Government Reporter


 AdamKravtiz BillRitchie Columbian12-3-15

The Council for the Homeless and a local pastor are leading an effort to build a temporary, emergency village of 40 tiny houses for 50 homeless people this winter at a church next to Garrison Square shopping center.

Forty 8-by-10-foot insulated garden sheds with windows and locking doors will be erected on a fenced, 1.5-acre empty field just north of Safe Harbor Church of the Nazarene’s parking lot at 8100 E. Mill Plain Blvd. Aimed at housing the most vulnerable of the homeless, the village will accommodate single women, adults with no minor children and elderly single men. It will have six portable toilets and two large, heated trailers for eating, computing, meeting with caseworkers and hanging out. Tenants won’t be allowed to have visitors, but pets will be permitted.

The village will remain on the site for 12 months, said Andy Silver, executive director of the Council for the Homeless.

“This is a temporary way to provide more safe emergency shelter while we’re figuring out how to create more permanent emergency shelter capacity in the community,” he said Thursday. “This isn’t a long-term solution. … This is a Band-Aid.”

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Our Homeless Crisis: Vancouver allows homeless camping, with ugly unintended results


"As negative as this is, it's forcing everybody to pay attention," said Adam Kravitz, who lived on the streets of Vancouver for six years and now runs the outreach group Outsiders Inn. "We can't hide it anymore. We have to look at it and look for permanent changes in the approach."


By Anna Griffin | The Oregonian/OregonLive
on November 07, 2015 at 5:00 AM, updated November 07, 2015 at 1:47 PM

A surprising thing happened when Vancouver leaders decided earlier this fall to lift the citywide ban on public camping:

Chaos ensued.

In just a few weeks, a residential neighborhood a 10-minute walk from the heart of downtown became host to a homeless camp that grew to 150 people. Tents lined parking strips, and sleeping bags, shopping carts, mattresses, coolers, garbage, luggage and bike frames collected on street corners. Armed volunteers showed up to keep the peace.

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