by Laurie Power, First Congregational UCC, Eugene
Published on June 27, 2011
A new 16-unit affordable housing facility, Afiya Apartments, was dedicated on June 10, 2011, in downtown Springfield, Oregon. The housing complex helps adults with psychiatric disability live on their own. Residents at the Afiya Apartments benefit from counseling, skills training, and medication monitoring on site. First Congregational UCC of Eugene has faithfully supported this project for some time. What a blessing to reach this milestone!
Years ago, the Church of the Brethren, a tiny church in Springfield that has served special needs adults and families with grace and dignity, launched a project to use its one acre site for housing for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. The church helped found a small nonprofit, Brethren Community Services, and invited First Congregational UCC, Eugene, to join its Board of Directors. Other Board members represent the Eugene Mennonite Church, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Springfield, ShelterCare, and the mental health profession.
The Board volunteers patiently worked to clarify a vision for the site and eventually hire a dedicated (and thrifty) architect and grant writer to secure the funds necessary to plan and construct the project. As the project grew in scope and complexity, Brethren Community Services wisely turned over the grant application process to ShelterCare. ShelterCare is a nonprofit based in Eugene that provides housing and support services to families who are homeless and adults who have a psychiatric disability or brain injury. Their experience and successful track record in helping move people toward greater levels of independence and stability were key in securing the federal, state and local funds needed to build the housing facility. What a joy (and relief) to complete the project on time and on budget and have it fully occupied by the end of May, 2011.
We know homelessness is extraordinarily disruptive, especially for people with disabilities. We know about the enormous need for safe, decent, affordable housing for people in need. What a privilege, then, for First congregational UCC to join with others in this ministry of patience and compassion. “Afiya” is Swahili for wellness, a fitting name for this place of healing and stability.
Laurie Power has been a leader in social justice issues at her church for years. She brought farm-to-table to her church along with Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA). She led the education effort to involve dozens of church members in buying “farm bucks” for shopping at the farmers market, as well subscribing to weekly boxes of fresh farm produce (CSA). Laurie also led her church in the cooperative build of a Habitat for Humanity house, coordinating all phases of that endeavor.
As a Board member of Brethren Community Services, Laurie was instrumental in bringing the Afiya Apartments project to fruition. Laurie is the recipient of the 2011 Justice & Witness Award, Central Pacific Conference UCC.