Guest Viewpoint: An Opportunity to Pay it Forward

After reading in the news about the Community Sharing and City of Cottage Grove partnership to purchase and operate a shower trailer, Ralph and I asked Community Coordinator Teresa Cowen to give us a tour of its operation.

Sadly, this much needed service, to meet a basic human need to be clean, is currently open only four hours a week on Wednesdays due to a lack of community volunteers to staff other days.

Teresa shared with us some of the joys and challenges she faces each day as she works directly with this un-housed population. The public perception is that showers users are “druggies” or chronically homeless people. We were surprised to learn the stories of other users who show up to use the service as the uncertain economy and tight housing market force more of our neighbors into desperate situations.

When the owner of a rental house wanted to move back into it, their long-time renter didn’t have enough time and money to find another affordable place to live. The person was forced to put everything in storage and temporarily live in a vehicle to earn the move-in fees for a new rental. Another person was T-boned by an uninsured driver and badly injured. The person is now living in a tent in great pain and unable to work to pay for a place to live until the insurance and disability money applications are processed.

As we drove back home we realized how blessed we were and wanted to help the city staff who are doing what they can to address this growing problem in our community. When we made a donation to be used when special needs arose, we had NO idea our donation would require a public vote of the Cottage Grove City Council and how uncomfortable it feels to get the attention it has received. So, we will simply use this unexpected opportunity to challenge other Grovers to add to this newly dedicated fund.

To grant funders, local community support is compelling in a competitive grant process. This growing fund to serve the un-housed will help city and Community Sharing staff write successful grants and create additional resources to assist motivated individuals regain a position of honor and respect in our community.

Just imagine living in a vehicle or tent and you can only shower the grit and grime off your body once a week. We really need that shower trailer open at least two days a week!

We hope some of you who are reading this letter will be moved with compassion to volunteer your time to give the gift of dignity to those who seek it. This is a genuine “pay it forward opportunity” to bless someone who desperately needs a nice hot shower more than once a week.

Please call Teresa at 541.942.1185 to arrange a visit to the shower trailer on a Wednesday between 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. and volunteer to expand its hours of operation.