The opening date of Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE), Eugene’s pilot project for a safe, sustainable community for homeless people, is fast approaching, and a series of fundraisers begins 6 pm Sunday, July 28, with “Keys for the Village,” a piano and keyboard concert featuring Grammy-nominated pianist Weber Iago.
“We’re getting toward crunch time,” says Cary Thompson, an OVE board member and president of the Helios Network. He says the committee and village members are making decisions on details like sanitation and finishing vetting the last two occupants; 15 people will live on the pilot site at N. Garfield and Roosevelt. The city plans to use the vacant site in the next few years, so the location is temporary. “If we do well, I think we’ll have a good chance of being able to move the structures and move the infrastructure,” Thompson says.
Thompson stresses that OVE will be a village, not a camp, and they’re creating community agreements that the residents will use to govern. “It’s going to be fairly well-regulated,” he says. Drinking and drug use won’t be allowed on the site, though adults are free to consume alcohol at a bar just like other Eugeneans, as long as they don’t return drunk and disruptive.
OVE isn’t getting any financial breaks as a humanitarian organization, which is one of the reasons it’s holding a benefit. “We just paid the city $7,000 on the conditional use permit,” Thompson says. “We want to do it right, do it legally and make as sure as we can that it will be a model that can be replicated.”
Local musicians including Dario LaPoma will open the Keys for the Village benefit. Retired chaplain and OVE board member Wayne Martin says he’s looking forward to hearing “Jerry the homeless guy” play. “He’s in his 60s and he’s been quite the pianist, and now he’s homeless,” Martin says.
Following the first half of the concert, Wesley United Methodist Church’s Conestoga hut residents will hold an open house to show how structures like those planned for OVE can function. Weber Iago, who was nominated for a Latin music Grammy, will close the concert, combining “elements of classical, jazz, Latin, pop and sacred music.” “I just love what he’s been doing as a composer,” Martin says.
The Sunday benefit concert will be held at Wesley United Methodist Church, at the corner of Oakway and Cal Young. Suggested donation is $10-$20, but no one will be turned away. Future OVE events or fundraisers include a groundbreaking, a grand opening, the Eugene Celebration Parade and a Kickstarter or Indiegogo project. For more information, check out opportunityvillageeugene.org.