There has been many passionate discussions at the get go starting Monday regarding “dry / clean and sober” code of conduct’s that are used in a Eugene Oregon Micro Housing Community/Village. Our working group so far has consensed upon the idea of a harm reduction model being used in the code of conduct. Here are my beliefs and why:
To be clear, much of how Eugene and Portland run their villages will be used here, as it is so amasing!.
The fact is, we have learned a great deal about harm reduction as a treatment model, Dr. Gabor Matte, as well as many other doctors and users themselves, have helped educate the masses. For me in Victoria, we at Sandy Merriman House (I was one of eight original staff hired at SMH: A woman’s emergency shelter renovated by women for women, we had to form policy in one week, we did it!) A year after the doors opened Janet Rabinovitch, the woman who organized the project from the streets, her and I got together and she asked me a queery about the building project in which women who were homeless did major renovations of the house over a year, worked with tradeswomen and some men and learned a great deal. The model was a “clean and sober” model. ie: if you drank or used you had to leave. Sandy Merriman died of an accidental overdose during the project, she is highlighted in the video made about Sandy Merriman House, she shines in this documentary. Her tragic death inspired the naming of SMH, its shared in the film.
I was told by her many friends as well as her widow Pam, that she was a dynamic person who loved people, sadly, she struggled at a period and, due to the pressure of losing her spot in the program, she kept it to herself. I respect that Janet asked me “Kym, do you think that, if we had a harm reduction model, Sandy might still be alive?” We both had to agree, she might still be alive if she felt she could talk about her use openly with out fear of losing her position in the project.
We both swore to advocate for harm reduction models and, here I am about to be homeless again, hoping to be one of many homeless who have an opportunity to co build our home alongside others as we did for thousands of years, what an opportunity for community building!
I can feel the success of this project, taste it on my tongue. I want community, I do not need more authority, I do not need a manager, I need my village.
After Sandy Merriman’s death, Pam and others buried her boots in the cement below the stairs, makes me tear up every time I think of her, her boots and the love that flowed between the women of Sandy Merriman House. I never met Sandy and only met a few women who did the renovating, I’d meet them over the few years I worked there; as they came back to use services, they’d share their stories of building, show me spots they worked on, walls they helped put back up. They had a sense of ownership.
I share these stories as, so far there seems to be consensus that we are not punitive nor judgmental, that we will work with people if they fall and try and help them right back up. We will have equity thus involvement and a sense of shared responsibility.
This project may be reflecting our growth as a community from one that is authoritarian punitive based to one that is about equity, we all are people, we all have a place in production and have a right to dignity.
I am pleased that housed and un-housed have been speaking out about why we need Solidarity Village to be a harm reduction model; from how we treat this earth, other animals and how we treat ourselves and each other, non violence and open direct democracy will bring more of a sense of pride and care for our home.
Our intention on this working group is to co-create a community contract, the heart of which will be based upon the principles of harm reduction, non violent conflict resolution as well as trainings on our rights and responsibilities. We are in contact with potential non profits who may mentor us as we form our own non profit over this next year.
I am about to be homeless, it broke my heart. I saw the eviction notice on my way to hospital to deal with my lung lesion and the infection around it. I am tired of trying to find home, I cannot afford most. Many buildings I cannot even live in due to my environmental sensitivities, I have fallen thru the cracks a lot.
Myself and quite a few others are already on the list to be a resident in Solidarity Village.
I am on the slowest computer at the hospital, and am grateful for your time and patience. I’ll be home tomorrow, Bobby and I will be organizing the sign up sheets preparing for Tuesdays Organizing meeting, 7pm, Hoggarts Park on Chambers, 2 blocks west of Pandora.
kym hothead hines