April Poverty Forum – Sustainbility

Sustainability April 2016


Sustainability for All Species: Insights for Communal Approaches to Poverty

April 20, 2016, 5:30 – 7:15 PM ~ Carbondale Public Library

Taking its lead from proximity to Earth Day, the upcoming meeting of the Community Forum on Poverty will focus on two questions:  Why should we insure the sustainability of all species?  What communal actions can be taken to insure their sustainability in our community?

The program will begin with screening of a Native American perspective in The Teachings of the Grass, by Robin Kimmerer, a plant biologist of Potawatomi ancestry. This will be followed by short presentations and panel discussion by several of SIU’s engaged scholars, who study sustainability from broad perspectives.

NOTE: We will be posting informative resources that can be accessed in advance of this meeting, or after, to learn more about the perspectives shared by our presenters via the Imagining Geographies website: http://www.imagining.siu.edu.


  1. Screening of Mishkos Kenomagwen: The Teachings of the Grass. 2015 Bioneer presentation by Robin Kimmerer, SUNY Native American plant biologist.

Indigenous peoples worldwide honor plants, not only as our sustainers, but as our oldest teachers who share teachings of generosity, creativity, sustainability and joy. By their living examples, plants spur our imaginations of how we might live. By braiding indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) with modern tools of botanical science, Robin Kimmerer, professor of Environmental Science and Forestry, of Potawatomi ancestry, explores the question: “If plants are our teachers, what are their lessons, and how might we become better students”?

  1. Opening statements by presenter-panelists regarding session’s main questions: Why should we insure the sustainability of all species?  What communal actions can be taken to insure their sustainability in our community?
  • Professor Karen Renzaglia (Plant Biology).
  • Geory Kurtzhals, SIU Sustainability Coordinator.
  • Associate Professor Sarah Lewison (Radio, Television & Digital Media).
  • Brent Ritzel, solar project developer & co-director Fuller Future Festival (SIU alum)
  • Associate Professor Jonathan Gray (Communication Studies).

3. Panel Discussion

4. Comments, Q & A with audience members and fellow panelists



The Community Forum Series – Challenges of Poverty is a project of the Sparrow Coalition in conjunction with Carbondale Public Library and the Imagining Community project of SIU’s Imagining Geographies.  All sessions are recorded and posted on both the Sparrow Coalition & Imagining Geographies websites/YouTube channels.

Contact:    Peter Lemish, Facilitator, Imagining Geographies     peterlemish@siu.edu     (618) 534-3989.

Working with the Vulnerable

Community Forum on Poverty Working with Vulnerable Children, Youth & Adults in Jackson County March 23rd, 5:30 p.m. Carbondale Public Library

About the presenters:

Shannon Butler is a Carbondale native. She has a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and is serving as the first social work intern at the Carbondale Public Library, serving clients and developing a groundbreaking library service while completing her master’s degree in Social Work at SIU. She also volunteered as a Living Book in the library’s Human Library, where she shared her own story of childhood homelessness.

Melinda Pierson has been a school social worker at Carruthers Elementary in Murphysboro since 2010. In this role, she provides counseling, behavioral and educational interventions, and parental support, as well as engages in advocacy and helps meet the basic food, health, shelter and clothing needs on behalf of her students. Carruthers is a Title I school that serves Kindergarten through 5th grade, with a racially, ethnically and economically diverse student body of over 400 students. Prior to becoming a social worker, Melinda was involved in policy and politics at the state level in North Carolina, as well as in various economic development and environmental nonprofits in an advocacy role for over a decade.

The Budget Crisis – October 2015 Community Forum

Budget                                         Oct. 27, 2015

The fate of the most vulnerable and Southern Illinois’ social service providers in the ongoing budget stalemate was the focus of the October 2015 Community Forum: Challenges of Poverty in Carbondale.

The forum gathered major regional social service providers and civic leaders to discuss the impact to their services to vulnerable residents and the employment status of persons working in social service / government agencies. A list of local service agencies that have been adversely affected by the Illinois budget stalemate can be accessed here.

Panelists also addressed the sustainability of the social service infrastructure in Southern Illinois, which they say is in danger of collapse. Agencies are reporting that they will have to close if state funding is not restored by January. 87% of state social service providers have already made program cuts, and regional closures include one mental health and substance abuse service provider and one domestic violence shelter.

The second half of the forum was devoted to discussion about possible avenues for collective action. Suggestions from the panelists and audience included the call for immediate passage of a state budget and increased revenue. Already Southern Illinois social service providers report being underfunded, and many have seen state funds dwindle over the last several years.

Many in attendance expressed outrage that social services have become a political pawn in the budget stalemate, and asked that lawmakers make social services a priority. The representative for the Responsible Budget Coalition suggested several possible sources of new revenue.  Some audience members voiced support of HB 106, a financial transaction tax.

Photo of Ocotber Community by Jacob Wiegand, Daily Egyptian

“We are in an impasse right now, but the crisis has been actually growing for many years,” said Peter Lemish of SIU’s Imagining Geographies-Civic Soul, co-sponsor of the community forum on the budget impasse. “In that kind of situation, we are really the voices of some of the vulnerable people whose voices are not being heard here. We need to find a way that we can wake up this region and say, ‘Look this is the zero hour, we need to be acting collectively and let the legislator and the governor and those who are influential know that this region is not to be taken for granted.'” Photo Jacob Wiegand, Daily Egyptian

The forum was co-faciliated by Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry and Peter Lemish, of Southern Illinois University’s Imagining Geographies – Civic Soul. Panelists and social service and civic representatives who spoke included:

Jean Alstat, Crisis and Community Services Director, Centerstone (Panelist)

Jennifer Cushman, Field Coordinator & Policy Specialist, Responsible Budget Coalition (Panelist)

Camille Doris, Executive Director, Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless (Panelist)

Mike Heath, Executive Director, Good Samaritan Ministries (Panelist)

John Jackson, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute (Attendee)

Lori Longueville, Director Child Care Resource and Referral at John A. Logan College (Attendee)

Miriam Link-Mullison, Director of the Jackson County Health  Department (Attendee)

Gary Williams, Interim City Manager, City of Carbondale (Panelist)

For more information about the event, read the coverage by the Southern Illinois University student newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.

-Marleen Shepherd

Information on the Community Forum: The Community Forum series began in June 2015 as an initiative of the Sparrow Coalition and Imagining Geographies-Civic Soul, in partnership with the Carbondale Public Library and the Carbondale Interfaith Council. The series aims to advance ongoing understanding, discussion, and actions related to issues and consequences of poverty and homelessness.

Community Forum


Tuesday, October 27
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Carbondale Public Library

What is the fate of the most vulnerable and our social service providers in the ongoing budget stalemate? The next Community Forum: Challenges of Poverty in Carbondale will be devoted to assessing the current budget impasse in three areas:

  • SERVICES: Provision of services to vulnerable residents
  • EMPLOYMENT: Employment status of persons working in social service / government agencies
  • SUSTAINABILITY: Sustainability of social service network in Southern Illinois

Panelists will be drawn from civic and social services sectors to report on their agencies’ present capacities, and assess impact on these three domains if the budget impasse continues into 2016. The second half of the forum will be devoted to discussion about possible avenues for collective action.

Additionally, the Sparrow Coalition is continuing to compile a list of area social service providers that have been adversely affected by the Illinois budget stalemate. If you know of affected local services, or have updates to report, please contact us info@sparrowcoalition.org.

Information on the Community Forum: The Community Forum series began in June 2015 as an initiative of the Sparrow Coalition and Imagining Geographies-Civic Soul, in partnership with the Carbondale Public Library and the Carbondale Interfaith Council. The series aims to advance ongoing understanding, discussion, and actions related to issues and consequences of poverty and homelessness.

Informative Resources: Housing First Initiatives

‘Housing First’ Initiatives

IDEAS Driving Housing First Initiatives:  “Housing First is an approach to ending homelessness that centers on providing people experiencing homelessness with housing as quickly as possible – and then providing services as needed. This approach has the benefit of being consistent with what most people experiencing homelessness want and seek help to achieve.” National Alliance to End Homelessness

VIDEO ‘Housing First’– a way towards ending homelessness     Video: TEDx local production
Juha Kaakinen describes the main features of the Housing First concept. He also tries to challenge the `prevailing prejudices about homeless people. TED Published on Sep 19, 2014 [ 16:58” ]


Members of the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Westfield, N.Y. decided to create a portable homeless shelter to temporarily house those in the community who are unable to make the 20-mile trip to the nearest shelter. The poor church cannot afford better housing at the moment, but believe the insulated hut will make a difference while dealing with sub-zero temperatures. [1:37”] Published March 7, 2014

  • COMMUNITY-WIDE ACTION         FOCUS of September 29 Presentation

CASE STUDY – ‘Square One’, Eugene Oregon

Tiny Houses – Square One / Opportunity Villages Eugene, Oregon
Square One website  History & actions taken in establishing, first, Opportunity Village, and recent additional initiatives.

CNN Brief report: Homes for the Homeless. Short article about Opportunity Village, OR

VIDEO: Homeless not Hopeless[ Opportunity Village, Eugene, OR ]
Transitional micro-housing community helping to create solutions. Published on Sep 20, 2014 [9” ]

    VIDEO: A Rational Response To Homelessness – It’s ACTUALLY Happening! [Utah] [8”]
    “In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015. How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person. Published on Feb 8, 2014
  • NATION-wide ACTION in United States National associations & resource aggregators
    The American Tiny House Association promotes the tiny house as a viable, formally acceptable dwelling option for a wide variety of people.

National Alliance to End Homelessness Housing First page

Tent City Urbanism and The Village Collaborative

* Prepared by Civic Soul Media, an Imagining Geographies Initiative, in collaboration with The Sparrow Coalition.   September 2015.

Housing First – September 2015 Community Forum

15-9- Forum Housing First

                        September 28, 2015

“Challenges of Poverty in Carbondale”
Housing First : Case Study of Eugene Oregon’s Opportunity Village

Dan Bryant of SquareOne Villages (SOV) described low-cost methods used to provide temporary shelter for the homeless in Eugene, Oregon at the September Community Forum. Through these innovative approaches, nearly 200 people have found shelter without the construction of a traditional shelter. In addition, Bryant also discussed the next project, permanent housing for the homeless using micro-housing concepts. Bryant has a mission to create self-managed communities of low-cost tiny houses for people in need of housing.

Dan began by giving statistics of a homelessness study that showed it actually cost less to house the homeless than to deal with the ramifications of the homeless being unsheltered and “on the streets.” He also said that the federal agency, Housing & Urban Development (HUD), is pressuring communities to house the homeless. Tent cities in many communities have not been an effective option, and these homeless are often forced to move frequently. Thus the homeless in our society are often the poorest of the poor and cannot live with the dignity they deserve.

Dan’s presentation centered on six ways to deal with homeless, five ways as has been done in Eugene, Oregon, and the sixth that is in the planning process and will be done. For further information, go to: http://www.squareonevillages.org

Six Methods of Sheltering the Homeless in Eugene, Oregon:

(1) Interfaith Family SheltersPhoto of Dan Bryant September 2015 Community Forum

This is similar to the one in Carbondale, in that the shelter has a zero tolerance for drugs or alcohol so as to protect the families with children. However, in Eugene, the largest shelter provides 450 beds.

(2) Car/Trailer Camps

Homeless who do have vehicles or trailers are allowed to park in a designated areas. Several communities had had incidences of violence in these settings, especially when allowing many vehicles. Currently in Eugene, anyone with a parking lot can provide for 3 – 6 vehicles as long as a Porta Potty and trash services are made available per city regulations and sometimes outdoor cooking arrangements. Most of these lots do not provide electricity for the vehicles, but Dan’s church does. They call this, “The 3 Trailer Ministry” because some of these are not motorized vehicles, but trailers that are brought or donated. All three trailers at Dan’s church were donated.

(3)   Warming Centers:

Several churches in Eugene alternate to serve as “Warming Centers” for homeless when the temperatures falls below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, 18 people are located per site with at least one trained staff available. Rules usually include that the homeless are to be alcohol and drug free.

(4)   Rest Stops/Tent Cities:

Legalized camps can be established within the city with 20 or less homeless per site. Often these are located close to community-supported centers. Some sites have built 6 foot by 10 foot huts at a cost of about $1,200.00 each. These “Conestoga” huts have wooden floors set on concrete blacks with a U-shaped dome top stretched across Polyvinyl chloride (PCV) piping; these were in the shape of the Conestoga (covered) wagons used in the 1800’s to go West. One of these sites is a “Veterans’ Rest Site”, because it has been found that especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferers fare better alone in a hut versus living in a noisy community shelter situation. One rest stop is a “wet shelter” for those with addictions.

(5) Gated “Opportunity Village”/”Square One Village”:

This gated community has mostly “tiny houses” being 8′ by 8′ wood units each with a loft for sleeping and 2 chairs and a desk/table. Also some of the units are the Conestogas on the concrete blocks, as described in (4) above. These units usually do not have electricity or water but surround a community center that has electricity, water, restrooms, showers, a cafeteria area, and laundry room, a community garden and has access to public transportation. To look for work, these residents need showers, laundry and cafeteria facilities, phone access and an address, as well as access to public transportation. The goal is for these residents to be able to eventually transition out of this village to their own apartments and about 70% have done this so far. But for HUD housing in Eugene, the wait time can be about one year for a 2-bedroom apartment for a family and over 5 years for a one bedroom apartment for a single or couple. HUD housing is experiencing quite a back-log due to the large number of people who have lost jobs in OR. The Eugene village has been there since 2013 and has 29 units at a total cost of $200,000. Dan had talked to a contractor from St. Louis who thought that the cost would be lower in Southern Illinois. The cost per night is $3.00 with the homeless paying $1.00/night of this.

(6) Permanent Housing/”Emerald Village Eugene (EVE)”:

This is in the planning phase in Eugene with three architects designing tiny, permanent houses which would range from 120 – 250 square feet each. They would contain a toilet, shower or bath, kitchenette, bed and table/chair area. The mission is to expand affordable housing options for very low-income individuals and families through low-cost, tiny houses within a stable community setting in which residents can build equity. $300,000 was paid for the total property and the individual houses will be built with volunteer labor. The residents would be members of a homeowner’s association in which they build equity. Residents can take pride in their homes and have the dignity of home ownership. Some of the residents may be getting the $730/month in disability payments (SSI) or are underemployed as working part-time.

Want to learn more?

Those interested in learning more about Housing First initiatives are encouraged to access the Informative Resources page.


-Eileen Troutt-Ervin


Homeless in Carbondale – June 2015 Community Forum

Photo June Community Forum

Community Forum Series “Challenges of Poverty in Carbondale”

June 23, 2015 ~ Carbondale Public Library

“Homeless in Carbondale”

SIU Researcher Josh Phillips interviewed 10 homeless people over several months while working at a local homeless shelter. Phillips found that often benefits being offered or received do not match recipients’ needs. At the June 2015 Community Forum, Phillips shared their experiences and views on solutions to homelessness. Some of the common themes that emerged in his study are losing everything, navigating the system, manipulating the system, and seeking recognition and finding community. These experiences informed a dialogue in which housed and unhoused community members discussed how best to address the challenges of poverty in Carbondale.

Phillips emphasized that the voices of homeless people matter, and that we who are housed should listen carefully. “Dialogue between housed and homeless fosters a sense of mutual respect, personal empowerment, and shared ownership for public policy,” Phillips said.

Listen here to WSIU’s interview with Carbondale Interfaith Council President and Sparrow Coalition Facilitator Maurine Pyle and SIU Lecturer Josh Phillips about the “Homeless in Carbondale” Community Forum. Read coverage by the Southern Illinoisan here.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Community Forum Series Challenges of Poverty in Carbondale is an initiative of the Sparrow Coalition and Imagining Geographies – Civic Soul, in partnership with the Carbondale Public Library and the Carbondale Interfaith Council. Following Civic Soul’s civic dialogue model, these community meetings seek to enable residents, members of ad hoc groups and civic organizations, researchers, policymakers, city staff, and civic leaders to discuss crucial issues of shared public concern.

Previous Community Forum events include a film screening of “The Homestretch,” in partnership with WSIU which follows the lives of three homeless teens; as well as screenings and discussions with homelessness documentarian Diane Nilan during Carbondale’s 11 Days of Compassion in March 2015.

The Forum will continue in September when one of the founders of Eugene, Oregon’s micro-housing development, Opportunity Village, will share the accomplishments of this project.