Friday, August 2, 2013

Vallejo Dignity Village

2013-07-23 "Pastor looks at alternative idea to homelessness"  
by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald" []:
Returning to the "real world" after 40 days living as though he were (nearly) homeless, Scott Nalley said readjusting to having a home, family and church to run was not seamless.
"I noticed there was still that connection. It just don't feel right," said Nalley, pastor of Bridgeway Church Outreach Center, about a week after his journey ended. "I guess it's like soldiers on a combat field."
About a week into his plan to serve Vallejo's homeless on their own turf, Nalley, 52, stumbled upon Vallejo's experiment with creating a "Dignity Village."
Vallejo's Dignity Village, which is being disbanded, was a regulated effort kept mostly under wraps by organizers. It was based on a 13-year-old alternative homeless shelter of the same name in Portland, Ore. The camp was divided into districts overseen by its denizens, with tents, tarps, food and other services regularly provided.
"I went from the hill (near Lowe's) to Dignity Village," said Nalley, an ex-Marine. "It's just a huge difference. Because there, they really are camping. It really highlights how valuable community is... It's just a place to call home. They say 'we're not homeless, we're houseless.' "
Nalley came to Vallejo four years ago from Napa to find a place where he found it easy to be of help to some of the area's neediest. He said he was surprised to find out what the hardest parts of being homeless are.
Waking up with a damp sleeping bags, avoiding bugs, finding a place to shave and get water, keeping your phone charged -- the needs were immediate for Nalley and many to whom he spoke.
Nalley said he learned that Vallejoans are some of the most generous people he's met when it comes to helping the needy, and that it is a misconception that homeless people do not work -- they just go about it in different ways.
"It's actually pretty hard to stay homeless. If you think about it, you've got to (find a) shower, you've got to get food," Nalley said. "They get up early every day. Some of them get up at 3, 4 in the morning and head out for recycling."
Vallejoan Deme Stall-Nash began publicly campaigning for the city to launch its own version of the encampment, aimed at returning dignity to those without a permanent home, after a woman was found dead in a Vallejo encampment.
Stall-Nash went on to secure the permission of a property owner in the city's White Slough area to allow the encampment for a year. The area behind Redwood Street was already a regular gathering point for homeless people, and has been cleared out by the city or at the city's urging on several occasions in recent years.
In June, Stall-Nash and Nalley appealed to the Vallejo City Council for attention to the matter. Stall-Nash said she and camp organizers Vallejo Together had not received the backing they were hoping for to make the encampment permanent, and now were being told to clear it out by Aug. 1.
"It's sad that we're not taking ownership," Stall-Nash said Monday. "We need our city leaders to realize (homelessness is) our problem now. They're just going to somebody else's land owner."
Between 30 and 40 people were staying at Dignity Village at its peak, organizers said.
Code Enforcement Manager Nimat Shakoor-Grantham has raised concerns that the debris and waste byproducts of the encampment are endangering the White Slough's federally protected wetland environment and could open the city to fines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Vallejo Housing and Community Development Director Anne Putney said last month that her office is working to provide resources for the homeless encampment as it is being disbanded, including distributing to denizens a resource guide that sprung out of last year's homeless workshops.
Putney also pointed to the upcoming roundtable homelessness discussion as a place to "get all the players at the table." She added that $75,000 in city Housing Authority budget reserves have been set aside to fund homeless services, and hopes ideas raised at Wednesday's discussion will assist in zeroing in on priority needs.

If You Go
What: Vallejo Homeless Workshop 3
When: 4-6 p.m., Wednesday
Where: John F. Kennedy Library's Joseph Room, 505 Santa Clara St.
At issue: Vallejo's homeless people and service providers brainstorming session, with Placerville Mayor Wendy Thomas speaking on the "Hangtown Haven" encampment
RSVP: Vallejo Together, 655-5381 (seating limited)

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