Homeless shelter gains green space

With hundreds of hands, even on a warm day, see what these ‘DePave’ volunteers accomplished at this former strip club …

It’s hard work on a hot day, but volunteers rip up the driveway along side the Human Solutions Family Center.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Since the Human Solutions Family Center opened on February 1 in the building that long housed the Woodshed Restaurant, and later The Black Cauldron vegan strip club, it’s now been serving about 160 family clients every day.

> Read about the opening of this shelter: CLICK HERE.

The building had been surrounded by a paved driveway and parking, with no green space in sight.

That changed, on the morning of July 30, when dozens of volunteers from an organization called “DePave” grabbed pry-bars and other equipment, and began to remove the asphalt to create a green space – with a children’s play area, raised garden beds, and a rain garden.

Rosa Lehman and Jason Bergstrom pitch broken pavement into a drop box.

Human Solutions Executive Director Andy Miller, Accountant Ashley Parks, and Director Development Scott Langen say they’re thankful for the volunteers who are “de-paving” this driveway.

“First and foremost, this is a day of community,” said Human Solutions Executive Director Andy Miller.

He recalled that when the organization bought the place in November, they worked on a tight budget and timeline to get opened up by the first of February.

“We focused our resources and our time on getting the inside ready because it was wintertime,” Miller explained. “We did not have plans for the outside of the building.

Volunteers, each pushing a wheelbarrow of broken pavement, line up to dump their loads

“As spring came, we realize we needed to have some outdoor green space for families to congregate in,” Miller continued. “They need a place to enjoy some natural beauty, and for kids to have a play area. From that thinking, the project of creating a ‘backyard’ for the Family Shelter was born.”

“We have residents of the shelter working side-by-side with folks who come to us through the environmental and sustainability movement with DePave,” Miller added.

Past Human Solutions Executive Director Jean DeMaster volunteers, working to move broken pavement with a hand truck.

“Isn’t this wonderful?” said Past Human Solutions Executive Director Jean DeMaster who volunteered at the project. “Look at all of these volunteers, taking out the driveway. This is a fantastic project.”

DePave Executive Director Eric Rosewall pauses for a photo with Crew Leader Matt Krueger, who works with the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Tree Program; and Kasandra Griffin, board member and one of the founders of DePave.

“DePave builds stronger communities through radical place-making,” said the Executive Director Eric Rosewall

“We work with a variety of different community groups – from schools, faith communities, and other nonprofits – to engage constituents and neighborhood members at large, in the process of transforming a space from lifeless pavement, to thriving green space,” Rosewall told East Portland News.

Working diligently all morning, scores of volunteers bust pavement – making way for a new green space for the family shelter.

About 125 volunteers dug, lifted, and wheeled away chunks of asphalt to the waiting drop boxes, as the work got underway.

“We were called in by Human Solutions; they asked if we could help,” Rosewall explained. “We were able to find enough grant funding to fit them into our schedule this year. This is our biggest event of the summer, as it turns out, actually – taking about 4000 ft.² of driveway next to what was a strip club.”

Some volunteers remove bark and branches from these huge logs in what will become part of the play area in the green space.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, DePave and Human Solutions volunteers are planting the area – to provide seating, a resting area, and raised garden beds for growing food.

“In the middle, we’ll have hefty logs and rocks in a play area,” Rosewall explained.

The Redland Trio provides a live music concert, to help keep spirit up on a hot day.

Some of the volunteers took a break; others went back to work, as the morning continued.

The Family Center provides the only emergency shelter in Multnomah County open 24/7 for families experiencing homelessness, 365 days per year. To learn more about the work of Human Solutions, see their official website: CLICK HERE.

And to learn more about DePave, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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