Latest News from Outsiders Inn

Unhoused Residents Association advocates on its own behalf

Group, which meets once a month, gives homeless a voice

AdamKravitz NatalieBehring TheColumbian

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

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There are neighborhood associations for most every area in Clark County, but what about people without an address?

The new Unhoused Residents Association looks to empower homeless people in Clark County by making them an officially recognized group that can advocate on its own behalf. In February, the association began holding monthly town hall meetings at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in west Vancouver.

Outsiders Inn, a homeless advocacy group, formed the association; meetings are facilitated by founder Adam Kravitz. He said he is a more effective advocate when he hears the most relevant, current concerns from people who are living on the streets.

“That’s why we do this. Everybody gets a voice, and everybody gets to be heard,” he said. “The magic of these meetings is bringing people together and the collaboration that’s going to happen.”

Kravitz is a new board member at Share, which operates shelters in Clark County, so he is able to offer institutional knowledge and relay what’s happening at the nonprofit organization to the Unhoused Residents Association members. Ren Autrey, also of Outsiders Inn, keeps minutes during the meetings.

Fliers for the association read: “No decisions about us, without us!”

Judi Bailey, neighborhoods program manager at the city of Vancouver, said neighborhood associations are geographically defined and are officially recognized by city ordinance. That means that those without an address cannot form a neighborhood association. The Unhoused Residents Association would be considered a sort of stakeholder group, she said, similar to Bike Clark County or the Clark County Rental Association.

“It’s more a group that’s connected by interest than geographical location,” Bailey said.

K.C. Vee, who lives out of his van with his wife, attended the group’s second meeting on March 10. The 40-year-old said he isn’t sure if politicians will listen to him about his concerns but they would be more apt to listen to a reputable organization, whether it’s Outsiders Inn or the Unhoused Residents Association. He is concerned about the negative perception of the homeless, he added.

“This isn’t just a bunch of people sitting around whining about being homeless,” Vee said. “We want to change our circumstance.”

Danny Hessick said he heard about the meetings at Friends of the Carpenter and a volunteer with the nonprofit group drove him to the meeting at St. Luke’s. The 47-year-old said he likes that the gatherings give him a chance to let other people know what he is feeling.

Also in attendance were representatives from agencies that assist the homeless, including 211Info, the Arnada Abbey, Hands of Favor and His Presents.

Seeking solutions

Many topics were covered at the two-hour meeting on March 10.

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Art show spotlights works by homeless

Vancouver Community Library wants to show their creativity, efforts to contribute

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

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JDTurner AmandaCowen TheCoumbian

One of Jonathon David Turner’s wood-burning projects features cubes within cubes — the sort of art piece you have to readjust your eyes to understand. It sits in a glass pedestal on the downtown library’s first-floor atrium.

“It’s fun to mess with people’s heads,” quipped Turner, 31. “I would call it isometric optical illusions because you can look at the image at six different angles and see something different in each different angle. I try to actually accommodate each angle.”

He likes the mind-boggling works of M.C. Escher. If you want to talk to Turner about his artwork, he’s likely hanging out on the fourth floor of the library. He’s an artist in residence of sorts, spending days in the library and nights on Vancouver’s streets. He said he’s been homeless since 2009.

Homeless not Hopeless is the name of a new art show at the Vancouver Community Library featuring artwork done by local people who’ve experienced homelessness.

“The idea was to find a way to highlight the homeless population in a positive way,” said Ruth Shafer, program services manager at the library. “A lot of them really are being productive, creative, trying to contribute, and this is one way they can contribute.”

It’s the first time the library has attempted an art show like this, and it’s also the first exhibit in what’s called The Gray Space; people can find artwork throughout the first, fourth and fifth floors. It differs from the more formal gallery that people flock to for First Friday art receptions in the Columbia Room by the library entrance. Library patrons were clamoring for more art, and The Gray Space is what resulted. A series of hanging systems were installed along the concrete walls for displaying two-dimensional works.

“If you have a creative sort of side to you, no matter what your circumstance are you do it, or it comes out or you find a way to express it,” said David Gambale, senior library assistant.

Some of the pieces were hard to display, he said, such as a painting done on a T-shirt. Aurora Gallery donated matting services so the two-dimensional pieces could be hung on the walls.

The art show was the idea of Mandi Vee, who used to be homeless and spent much of her time creating art in the library. Although it took months to come to fruition, she’s looking forward to speaking at the show’s art reception Tuesday. She has several pieces in the library: stone jewelry, a crocheted baby blanket, drawings and an alabaster sculpture.

“That’s one of my favorite pieces. It’s still not done,” she said.

Some of her works speak more directly to homelessness, such as a beaded bracelet that says ‘being homeless should not be a crime’ and a poster with a series of questions for people to consider before judging someone who appears to be homeless. Does this person have a family they can rely on for help? Does this person have access to good, nutritional food? Is this person disabled?

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Vancouver church backs out of homeless village

Church received threat of lawsuit; backers vow to find new location

AdamKravitz and BillRitchie AmandaCowen TheColumbian

By Amy Fischer, Columbian City Government Reporter

Published:

A Vancouver church that had agreed to host a village of 40 tiny houses for the homeless has pulled out of the project, leaving organizers searching for a new location.

Safe Harbor Church of the Nazarene received a threat of a lawsuit, the church said on its Facebook page, adding, “We do not wish to fight with our neighbors, so we made the painful decision to withdraw from the project.”

The church’s pastor, David Edwards, previously said the Council for the Homeless and its partners could build a temporary, emergency village for 50 homeless people this winter in an empty field behind the church at 8100 E. Mill Plain Blvd., which is next to the Garrison Square shopping center. Bordered by 82nd Avenue, which dead-ends at an apartment complex, the Safe Harbor church site was chosen because it’s close to a hospital, a bus line and shopping.

Andy Silver, executive director of the Council for the Homeless, said he received the news Wednesday morning.

All the partners involved are still “100 percent committed to making this happen,” Silver said.

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