Helping the unhoused get out of the elements and into a safe place where they can gain stability, build community, and begin to rebuild their lives is no easy task. Doing it with care and on a limited budget is harder still. Yet that is what a dedicated group of folks have been doing over the last few years through an innovative nonprofit organization in town called Community Supported Shelters (CSS). And the idea is spreading…
If you have seen one of the now iconic Conestoga Huts around town, with their pioneer wagon style roofs, then you have seen the inventive handiwork of CSS co-founder Erik de Buhr. Along with his wife and co-executive director Fay de Buhr, they are leading the charge to revolutionize the way municipalities are dealing with some of the most vulnerable citizens among us, who for one reason or another have fallen through the cracks.
To help solve this challenging societal issue they have implemented a number of what are called “Safe Spots” or “Rest Stops”, which are a type of camp where 20 or so people live in a gated community filled with tents on platforms and Conestoga Huts. Safe Spots help residents stabilize their lives and form the bonds of community with other residents. CSS also provides case workers who regularly check in with residents to help them navigate the system as they work to rebuild and move on to something better by the time their allotted 10 months in camp have passed.
The organization raises most of its funds through individual donations from folks like you and me. I recently had the opportunity to attend this year’s big annual fundraiser. There I heard testimonials from folks the program has helped and inspired, including people from other cities and other states that are excited about Conestoga Huts and the Safe Spot model, and are working to implement them in their localities. I learned that outcomes have been extremely promising for camp residents with around 60% moving on to something better after their stay. And I really felt excited to be a part of this innovative group.
Posted by: Joshua Kielas, 04.05.2018