Corvallis, Meet the Really Really Free Market

You may have heard of Really Really Free Markets, or RRFMs, sprouting up in cities across the U.S. — from New York City to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota to Austin, Texas to, you guessed it, Corvallis. 

RRFMs, which are run by community members to help those who are living in poverty or without houses, serve as unique opportunities for people to share and collect resources. Some people who attend RRFMs bring items they no longer want or need — such as clothes, food, hygiene products, school supplies or housewares — that others can use and freely take. Distinct from swapping, however, people don’t need to bring something in order to take something; anyone is welcome to take anything they like from RRFMs, and interactions between those who bring items and those who take items are strongly encouraged. Meant to challenge survival-of-the-fittest ideas of scarcity and competitiveness, these markets embody the belief that there are enough resources to meet everyone’s material needs, and that these resources can be directly distributed and attained in equitable, sustainable and community-building ways.    

Unlike charities, RRFMs can be organized by anyone at any time and place, and they have been expanding throughout the world. Two local community members, Johnny Calderon and Dylan De Honor, have taken it upon themselves to continue spreading the RRFM’s roots. Their message to interested Corvallisites? “Bring what you can, take what you need.”   

How It Started 

Calderon and De Honor, who moved to Corvallis in late January, got their first taste of the RRFM about a year ago in Anaheim, California.  

“[They] were just having this market for impoverished people or people who needed some extra clothes or resources,” said Calderon, “and it was rooted in this idea of not letting things go to waste and instead giving them back to the community so they don’t just go straight to a landfill.”  

The RRFM was held near downtown Anaheim in La Palma park, commonly known as a houseless camp at the time. According to De Honor, it proved to be a big help both for houseless folks as well as housed folks who were struggling to make ends meet. 

“It really took off in Anaheim because they were facing many crises — among them being homelessness, stagnant wages, an unbelievable cost of living, and a lot of people living below the poverty line. We also faced nationwide issues like consumerism, extremely wasteful spending habits [and] fast fashion,” said De Honor. “People thought that we could turn to charity — that we could give clothes to them, but even with the super cheap prices, most homeless people still could not access them.”   

On top of that, large portions of clothes that are donated end up in landfills, incinerators or overseas markets that harm local economies and environments rather than in other people’s wardrobes.   

“That just completely continues to add to this clothing waste,” said Calderon. “To [a lot of people], a donation isn’t something that somebody could reuse; it’s just something to get rid of.”   

“We saw that a way to help people and alleviate those issues is a Really Really Free Market,” said De Honor.  

Not a Houselessness “Problem”  

Calderon and De Honor have been hosting RRFMs in Corvallis since late April. For Calderon, the incentive to continue this practice stems from a deeply personal interest.  

“I lived here a few years ago, and for about a month, I was homeless,” said Calderon. “One month I was in school, and the next I was on the streets.”  

In his experience, being houseless in Corvallis often felt like being perceived as a problem by the city — one that was met with fear or detachment by others.  

“It’s not a homelessness ‘problem’; I wasn’t part of a problem,” said Calderon. “It’s this idea that the homeless are just here, and we have to somehow make it so that they’re not always in our way. And I felt like that all the time when I was homeless; I felt like people wanted me out of the way.”  

Calderon eventually moved back to Los Angeles with his family. There he met De Honor, who, along with mutual friends, introduced him to Anaheim’s RRFM. Having wanted to return to Corvallis during his temporary stay, Calderon decided to take everything he learned from the RRFM about organizing and giving back to unhoused and low-income community members with him.  

“I wanted something that would help me the way that I wanted to be helped at that time,” said Calderon. “Our main goal is just to make [the market] as accessible to homeless people as possible, and through that we met a lot of the sweepminer people.” 

“Sweepminer” is an informal, unofficial name adopted by local community organizers working in solidarity with their houseless neighbors, who continue to be displaced by ongoing city-authorized “clean-ups,” or sweeps. 

“I got in contact with them before we even had our first [market] because I needed to know where these people were,” said Calderon. “I didn’t like this idea of just waiting for them to come to us; I wanted to go straight to them. I’m glad I talked to the sweepminers about this; [they told me], you need to go down there, talk to them and see what they need.”  

After speaking with houseless folks, Calderon and De Honor made a list of items that were requested most. These included tarps, antiseptic spray, reusable grocery bags, fresh produce, pet food and toilet paper. They have since continued to publicize and update this information via social media, encouraging people to donate these items at their next markets. In late April and May, they set up an RRFM at the Eric Scott McKinley Skate Park.  

“I think some of the biggest challenges that they had starting up that I was trying to help out with was identifying the location that impoverished communities would benefit the most from,” said Emmet Ritter, an organizer with the sweepminers. “The folks at the skate park were not yet facing removal, but a lot of the people that were there at the time were there because they had recently been removed from Pioneer Park.”  

“Our main goal through this is to not only give camaraderie to homeless people, but to give them resources to collect — resources to talk to each other, to plan ahead, to have what they need because [the city] keeps on taking everything,” said Calderon. “I’ve seen videos and pictures from sweepminers of tents being ripped out from the ground as if it’s trash rather than somebody’s home.”  

Those who had been residing at the skate park were all forcibly cleared out between June 24 and 25, and as a result, no longer have easy access to the shade that the Highway 34 overpass provided — a form of protection which, during extreme temperature spikes like the deadly, record-breaking heat wave that quickly followed, is essential to survival.   

“During the hottest parts of this year, and it’s just unprecedented how hot it is, people die of heat stroke in this kind of weather without proper protection — without shade,” said DeHonor. “They removed people from the overpass; it’s cool, it’s sheltered. These sweeps don’t only not solve the problem, they actually make things worse.”  

“This idea of displacement isn’t just out of malice,” said Calderon, “It’s about this political way of saying, ‘We will not take care of these people.’”  

The Wait Is Over  

Currently, one of the main goals for the Corvallis RRFM is for it to continue to spread and grow in the community, to the point where other locals can eventually start organizing these markets on their own.  

“Johnny and Dylan are kind of spearheading this, but it’s definitely more of a community-based event,” said Ritter. “The logistics of community efforts need to be made [from] what we know about where these marginalized and impoverished folks are, what are the things that they need, and how we can figure [this] out based on either the things that they tell us directly, as well as the evidence that we get from the lack of resource that the city of Corvallis is providing.”  

In the meantime, Calderon and De Honor have expressed hope in continuing to organize with sweepminers and other local community-run groups against actions that harm Corvallis’ houseless and working-class populations — especially as the costs of rent and housing continue to increase  

“We’re getting to the point in Corvallis where the wages are too low, the rent is too high, and if we continue to try to combat homelessness, it’ll sadly become a damage control problem where we’re also looking out for each other to make sure that we don’t become homeless,” said Calderon.  

While certain that there are many community members who are concerned about precarious living situations that they or others may be facing, Calderon has speculated that, thus far, there does not appear to be a collective movement on the rise of otherwise isolated people coming together and building solidarity with their fellow neighbors in times of crisis.  

“Maybe they’re just not organizing, or maybe they’re just not in the know or are waiting,” said Calderon. “With the market I want them to know, the wait’s over! We’re starting and we’re continuing and we need everyone’s help.”  

The Corvallis RRFM is held every last weekend of the month. The next market is scheduled to take place at Central Park on Saturday, July 31 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. More information is available on the market’s Instagram page, which also includes details on recommended items to bring, as well as COVID-19 guidelines to respect the safety and comfort of others. Questions or inquiries can be sent over direct messaging or to   

By Emilie Ratcliff 

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