Corvallis Social Justice: Resolution for Climate and Housing Justice, Mass Houseless Sweeps, Decolonizing Mental Health Care

On June 30, Sunrise Corvallis, a youth-led hub dedicated to local climate action, presented the Corvallis Green New Deal for Climate and Housing Justice (CGND) to the city’s Climate Action Advisory Board (CAAB) 

Leading with a land acknowledgment, the CGND notes that “colonialism and extractive relations with people and land, especially the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels, are the root causes of the climate crisis”. It goes on to state that the most harmful impacts of this crisis are experienced disproportionately by unhoused and low-income communities; Black, Indigenous, and communities of color; disabled communities; migrant and displaced communities; and other frontline and vulnerable communities that are historically marginalized.  

The resolution calls on the city to, among other actions, ensure access to affordable long-term and emergency housing options for all residents, and to “end the criminalization of houselessness, addiction, and mental illness” by ending camp sweeps and expanding Benton County’s Crisis Outreach Response and Engage (CORE) team  

In a letter to the CAAB, Sunrise Corvallis urged the Board to consider the importance of integrating issues of both climate justice and housing justice into one overarching vision for a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels.  

“It may seem counterintuitive to include issues as seemingly different from one another as the climate crisis, human migration and displacement, and the housing crisis in one resolution, but Corvallis residents’ lived experiences would suggest that these issues are, in fact, deeply interconnected,” reads the letter. “As such, the policy response should be just as integrated as the issues themselves.”  

The letter identifies sweeps as a climate injustice, as these cycles of displacement and loss of resources contribute to increasing vulnerability, trauma, and lack of protection and care for individuals who are already uniquely exposed to – and at heightened risk of suffering from – climate-related extremes such as air pollution and heat waves.   

“Camp sweeps take away community members’ homes, forcing them to move while they’re trying to survive off of few to no resources. Sweeps create a cycle of instability in houseless people’s lives by forcing them to start over each time they lose their home and struggle to gather belongings in the move.”  

The CAAB voted unanimously to recommend the resolution to the Corvallis City Council, who will be considering it over the next few months.   

Resources Needed as Sweeps Start Up Again: The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), working in tandem with Corvallis Parks and Recreation, has resumed posting and clearing unhoused people and encampments throughout the city. Today, sweeps are being carried out by ODOT – which brings in inmate crews from Salem – and by Parks and Rec at the Eric Scott McKinley Skate Park, Pioneer Park, and the Corvallis BMX Track.  

“These three areas are where the bulk of unhoused people in Corvallis live, because of the proximity to services, stores, and other necessities, and their [sic] all being swept… leaving people with little to no options where they can easily access the things they need,” wrote Stop the Sweeps Corvallis in a Twitter thread. “Sweeps will never solve homelessness, they will only ever hide unhoused people and make it harder for them to survive.”  

According to Maddie Bean, the Street Outreach and Response Team (SORT) Coordinator for the Corvallis Daytime Drop-In Center (CDDC) – which is within close walking distance of the skate park – this collaboration between ODOT and Corvallis Parks & Rec is strategic; in these situations, people who are displaced from ODOT-owned property are unable to move to city-owned property that is being posted and swept, and vice versa.   

“They have done this before, and prefer to work together in this way,” she said. “The burden is coming back to the nonprofits and the people who are buying things out of their own pockets because somebody’s entire wardrobe or equipment got thrown away, so they’re coming back and asking for these things that they need. It’s this awful cycle of wastefulness and trauma.” 

Items that are currently most needed at the CDDC are sheltering supplies such as tents, tarts, sleeping bags and sleeping pads; snack items in individual packages, such as bags of chips, cookies, crackers, granola bars, etc.; and batteries (especially AA and AAA). Donations must be new or gently used, and can be brought to the center, located on 530 SW 4th St, between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.  

Decolonization, Liberation, and Anti-Oppression in Mental Health: Silvana Espinoza Lau, a Corvallis-based liberation therapist, is leading a round of cohorts of an eight-week program for mental health clinicians – therapists, social workers, counselors, psychologists, etc. – seeking to center their practices on decolonial, liberatory, anti-oppressive and social justice-oriented values and frameworks.   

This small peer group program, known as “Decolonize Your Practice”, is intended for like-minded mental health clinicians who want to cultivate spaces and services that are truly affirming and responsive to – and result in better outcomes for – clients of historically marginalized and underserved identities, but who perhaps don’t know how to put these frameworks into practice, are trying to unlearn Western/white-centric models and education in the mental health field, or are concerned about not being effective enough in their interactions with clients. It is meant to be structured as both a safe space and a “brave space” where clinicians can learn and be vulnerable, challenged, and held accountable, with the end goal being to share visions of how to continue engaging in this work both in a professional capacity and in one’s community.  

Espinoza writes on her website about how the processes of decolonization, liberation, and anti-oppression can help the mental health field in the following ways:  

  • Decolonization allows clinicians to de-center, challenge, and unlearn the narratives and norms imposed by settler-colonial societies to center the voices of historically marginalized communities who deviate from these norms; 
  • Liberation compels clinicians to actively seek to “understand the experiences of oppressed and impoverished communities by addressing and dismantling the oppressive structures in which they exist”; 
  • Anti-oppression involves learning about the “systems, structures, laws, policies,” social norms and expectations, etc., that have kept certain groups and communities marginalized, and incorporating this knowledge in sessions with clients to understand how “these systems and structures are impacting their mental health.” 

There are two cohorts available: one for BIPOC clinicians, and one for white clinicians. While applications for the July cohorts have closed, you can learn more about the program – which will start up again in September – and/or get in contact with Espinoza here. If you are someone you know is a mental health clinician, you can also subscribe to Espinoza’s newsletter to receive more information about how to decolonize your practice, trainings and webinars focused on anti-oppression, social justice book recommendations, and questions from Espinoza about how she can best support you in this work.  

Corvallis Benefits Show for Abortion Access: If you were unable to make the local benefits show for abortion access that was organized by Reptile Lovechild, a Lebanon-based punk folk band, on July 4, you can catch another one on Thursday, July 14, at the Westminster House located on 101 NW 23rd St. The lineup includes Reptile Lovechild; Flexing, a Corvallis-based feminist post-punk band; and Anxiety Cat, an experimental political punk/folk/noise band on tour from Minneapolis, Minnesota.   

The show is intended to raise donations for the Northwest Abortion Access Fund (NWAAF), which funds abortion clinics in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Alaska to help people pay for their abortion care, as well as improve access for those who are travelling for care. Since the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24, the NWAAF has been increasing their fundraising efforts in anticipation of an escalating need for abortion grants and assistance with higher costs related to travel to states like Oregon and Washington, where abortion access and care remain legal and protected. They also value and share helpful information and resources related to reproductive justice, liberated bodily autonomy, and intersectionality in pro-abortion movements.  

“Although many people consider abortion, contraception, and pregnancy to be ‘women’s issues,’ many LGBTQ people – including lesbian and bisexual women, transgender men, two-spirit, intersex, nonbinary and gender nonconforming individuals – can get pregnant, use contraception, have abortions, carry pregnancies, and parent,” they wrote in an Instagram post  

In a separate post, they also noted, “[Abortion] bans and restrictions disproportionately harm communities that have survived systemic oppression and people who hold multiple marginalized identities.”  

The show will start at 7:00 p.m. Suggested donations are $7–10, which will be split between the NWAAF and the touring band. Masks and proof of COVID vaccination are required to attend.  

Free Haircuts for Unhoused Folks: Next Monday, July 18, hairstylists with Mindy’s Hair Affair will be providing free men and women’s haircuts for unhoused folks in the area. Instead of working from their downtown location, these haircuts will be offered at the Hygiene Center on 211 SE Chapman Pl, located next to the First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op South Store.  

The Hygiene Center is part of the Corvallis Men’s Shelter and is open to unhoused folks of all genders; services include showers, laundry, drinking water, daily sack lunches, and hot dinners on Mondays and Tuesdays from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. and lunches on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. provided by Stone Soup Corvallis.  

Signups for haircuts will be available between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. They will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis.  

By Emilie Ratcliff 

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