If you are like me, then you are aware of The Eugene Mission, but do you really understand what they do?
That's easy, right? They help homeless people. End of story, thanks for reading.
What does helping homeless people look like? If you're like me and you're honest, perhaps helping the homeless isn't your highest priority...maybe the homeless should help themselves...maybe I work hard for my dollars and I don't always think that they should be "wasted" on people who aren't willing to work hard to change their own situation...
So, I'm putting it out there - these are some of the thoughts (one's I don't like to admit) but ones that bounced around in my hollow head. If you are better than me and have never thought these things, please hang around, you may still learn something you didn't know about the reach of The Eugene Mission.
I decided to take The Eugene Mission up on their offer to "Schedule A Tour" - this can be done through the website, a simple email or by calling. I had some time and had some specific interests, so we were able to walk through and discuss the majority of their 11 official structures (there are technically 13 if you count the 2 chicken coops) on the 7.5 acre property in the Whitaker District of Downtown Eugene, Oregon. Driving by the facility from Chambers street you cannot grasp the full layout of their campus, it is quite a range of structures with the primary building having been built in 1967 and the newest structure, The Women's Center, having been built in 2013.
From a facilities management standpoint, which was one of my inquiries that led to the visit, it is amazing to think that they are able to keep things maintained and functioning with 2 full time maintenance staff (that's 6.5 buildings and 3.75 acres each) on buildings some of which are nearly half a century old.
As I walked with my tour guides I was humbled by their care, they knew names of guests at the facility as well as who had assisted them in reaching benchmarks/project around the campus. Everyone from volunteers that were assisting in the one of a kind gardens, employees working in various capacities, volunteers who were assisting in the kitchen and guest/members of the The Eugene Mission Life Change program who were in their final sessions of re-entering the public as productive members of society.
One important distinction that rattled my assumptions was that those who visit The Eugene Mission have to be sober, they are constantly testing and confirming the commitment to sobriety, as the team members noted, "You cannot begin to restore your life if you are addicted to substances." The organization remains firm in this commitment to restoration but have changed gears with regards to requiring guests to attend chapel, "No where in the Bible do we see that Jesus required the people He interacted with to listen to a message before they were fed." Faith remains a core of what inspires the staff to engage in their mission and they believe that the power of God's love is essential to long term change in the lives of those they serve, but this aspect is not forced upon anyone in their care.
On average The Eugene Mission serves nearly 400 people every day - men, women and children in our community that are in various stages of need. There is a significant number of those guests served by The Eugene Mission that have a very short stay with the organization as their lives have been suddenly impacted and they just need a little bit of help before they are back on their feet. The Eugene Mission partners with organizations such as Goodwill which brings in staff every Friday to assist with job training assistance as well as other community or government organizations who are following up with guests they are working with.
Many guests served by The Eugene Mission have problems related to mental health, substance abuse or other traumatic experiences that are holding them back from restoring their lives, the organization has 5 full time social service case workers that are laboring to assist these persons in finding resource to get their health and lives back on track. Every guest of The Eugene Mission assists with at least 1 hour of chores, is required to shower and is given clean pajamas as well as bedding which significantly assists with maintaining cleanliness throughout the campus.
In addition to the transitional services that we traditionally think of, The Eugene Mission facilitates a 12-18 month intensive Life Change program that takes men and women who are intentional about rebuilding their lives and further equips them to achieve this goal. Members of this program undergo case supervision, life and skills training and put many those skills to work by daily assisting with areas such as food services as well as work around campus.
The Eugene Mission is a wellness center for the homeless in our community. While this contingency of our local population may be misunderstood or even seen to be a detriment in many areas, I believe it is an important distinction to understand the standards, process and reach of The Eugene Mission in their goal of restoring lives in our area. In their own words, "The Eugene Mission’s ultimate goal is to provide holistic long-term solutions that lead to the wellness of its guests. We are positive but assertive with our guests, asking as much of them as they do of us. We arm them with the skills they need to move forward, while inspiring and motivating them to do so."
I thought I knew, but after taking the tour I am humbled and inspired by the reach of The Eugene Mission. I would encourage you and your family, or your friends or your organization to set aside 30 minutes and take the tour of The Eugene Mission.
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