There’s no question that the crisis of the unhoused, the homeless, people on the street — however we want to designate those in need — has reached a critical moment in Eugene and Lane County.
And when it comes to the unhoused, kids and teens are the most vulnerable.
St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) wants to begin tackling this pervasive issue, says Paul Neville, SVdP’s communications director. The nonprofit human services organization announced that it has a four-month option to buy the property at 3350 Willamette Street, the former home to the Cascade Presbyterian Church, which has moved its congregation to meet on Sunday mornings at Hi-Fi Music Hall.
The four-month option means that St. Vinnies, exclusively, has four months to raise the money to buy the property.
SVdP would use the property as residential facility for homeless youth with the main goal being, Neville says, keeping teens safe and in school.
“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Neville says. “This would be a facility that would serve homeless youth that are still in high school.”
Nevile says the target demographic is un-emancipated homeless youth ages 16 to 18, a population he says is very vulnerable.
The idea stems from St. Vincent’s job program for youth, the brainchild of SVdP’s executive director Terry McDonald. Neville says there are 40 kids currently in the program, which employs teens in SVdP and works together with the kids’ schools.
“We provide a steady presence in their lives,” Neville says. “We have a foundational base in this that helped inspire the idea for an actual residential facility.”
The proposed facility would house anywhere from 15 to 20 teens at a time; each resident would have an individual room and bathroom. There will be an on-site residency manager and social services.
“The idea is to keep them in school and protect them,” Neville says.
He adds that SVdP will continue to work closely with schools, as well as the city of Eugene, Springfield and the county.
“We have met with city planning officials, we have met with reps from both the Bethel and Eugene school districts — there is very strong support in the school districts for this project,” Neville says, adding that Mayor Kitty Piercy and Mayor-elect Lucy Vinis both support the project.
He also says that the Council of South Eugene Neighborhoods has expressed its support for the project.
Neville says the next four months will be a “mad scramble” to raise the money to purchase the property, but the organization is optimistic.
“We’ve got the experience and the contacts to pull this off,” he says. “I think there’s going to be strong community support for something like this.”